Shinara Grill and Lounge, Sydney

Usually on this blog, I try to remain positive. No eatery is perfect, so I try and focus on the many positives rather than lingering on the bad aspects of the meal. Unfortunately, this becomes quite impossible to do when the bad outweighs the good. And so begins the story of Shinara…

Once upon a time, three hungry bloggers sat at Ton Ton, awaiting an 8pm reservation at Shinara to celebrate a fellow blogger’s birthday. They were cold, they were hungry, and they were being lured by the smell of Japanese curry, ramen and chicken karaage. But they resisted, for everyone knows not to eat before an all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner. Little did they know that they would remain hungry and unsatisfied for another 4 hours…

Eager to fill their stomachs with meat, they arrived early at their reservation, and sat perusing the menu until they were joined by five more bloggers. Drinks were ordered, toasts to the birthday boy were made, and gifts were given. Formalities now aside, it was time to order the food.

And with a press of a button, a waitress was called, who attentively (or maybe not so attentively) wrote down their selections from the premium buffet menu ($39.50). “Ox tongue!”, “Wagyu!”, “Corn!”, “Korean pancake!”, “And the pork neck!”, “Ooh let’s get the beef rib!”, “Oh… and the edamame as well please”. It marked the start of their 60 minute time limit for ordering, and 90 minute time limit for eating. They were pleased with their choices, and now sat awaiting the arrival of their food.

(clockwise from left) edamame, takoyaki, korean chilli radish, kimchi

They sat, and sat, and sipped their drinks, and sat some more. Platters of food passed by, but alas none of it was for them. Until, hooray!, a plate of beef rib and other side dishes were set on the table. And the bloggers saw that it was good.

Marinated beef rib

Korean pancake (kimchi and plain)

They cooked their meat, ate their sides and were merry for some time. But where was the rest of their order? They assumed that it had been forgotten, so the button was pressed and the waitress was called, and orders were made again. “Could we get some ox tongue? And the wagyu? Oh, and some octopus, prawns, scallops, LA ribs, garlic, more takoyaki, sashimi, and a yukke? Oh, and a bowl of rice please.” Surely the food will come now, they thought. But how wrong they were.

Food came and went, but none of it was theirs. Time passed, oh so slowly, as they sat there with nothing to cook and nothing to eat. Orders were chased up, and slowly they began to dribble onto the table.


The seafood was approached with some trepidation. A quick *poke poke* with the tongs revealed that the scallops, prawns and octopus were in a deep frozen state. Onto the grill they went, sizzling as the water steamed off them. In fear of food poisoning, the food was cooked through, and it made the bloggers sad to be eating rubbery, charcoaled seafood. It made them very sad indeed.

Baby octopus and prawns

A measly plate of sashimi was put onto the table. “Is it frozen?” they asked, and although the salmon was proclaimed to be “alright”, the tuna was frozen solid.


The button was pressed, a waitress was called. “Could we have some ox tongue and wagyu sirloin? And some corn? Oh, and a yukke please. And a bowl of rice as well.” The wagyu sirloin is limited to 1 serve per person, said the waitress. “But we haven’t had it yet.” Are you sure? she questioned. “YES.”

Ox tongue

The ox tongue was very chilly, but edible. But the yukke had the bloggers in shock – it was frozen inside with shards of ice crystals clearly visible. They placed it on the grill to defrost it, and were sharply reprimanded by the waitstaff. “But it was frozen!” they explained, which was met with a blunt “dangerous” by the waitstaff and the grill promptly switched off. (The bloggers were later informed by waitstaff that yukke is supposed to be served frozen, which left them dumbfounded and speechless.)

Defrosting the “supposed to be” frozen yukke

Having given up on the savoury dishes, they turned to dessert. Surely you can’t go wrong with ice cream, they thought. A witty ninja joked that the ice cream would be the only thing not frozen when it is supposed to be, and while the bloggers laughed at that notion, it turned out to be frighteningly true. An order of one scoop of green tea and one scoop of vanilla per person arrived as a scoop of vanilla sitting in a pool of melted green goop.

Green tea and vanilla ice cream

After 60 minutes of waiting and frozen food at an all-you-can eat BBQ restaurant, the bloggers were hungry and despondent. A swift assault by the Ninja ensued, with the managerial staff having to be requested twice before any attempts to reconcile with unhappy customers were made. Every story has a happy ending, and this one ends at Mamak, where stomachs were filled and spirits were lifted by roti, fried chicken and teh tarik.

It was interesting to note that as we left the restaurant, there were tables with plenty of food strewn over them, with the customers looking happy and satisfied. It may have been that our table was mysteriously forgotten about, or that they were having a particularly bad night that night. This review is just my opinion, and is only based on one visit, so I can’t make any conclusions about the consistency of the quality of food and service. One thing is for sure though, I won’t be going back.

Shinara Grill and Lounge

Shop 1, 338 PItt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9262 9218
Open 7 days, 11am til late

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Bourke Street Bakery Carrot Cake

The other day, I received a random facebook message from Rachel, another food-loving friend of mine. This came across as a bit strange since we haven’t spoken for a while. “I love Bourke Street Bakery!” it read, “and their pork and fennel sausage roll is AMAZING!”

I completely understood her need to extol the virtues of Bourke Street Bakery – the first time I tasted their strawberry vanilla brulee tart I was telling anyone who would listen how awesome their stuff was. I was so sad when their store in Broadway closed because I used to visit their frequently for post-uni pastries and other carb-laden goodies.

When I came across this fluffy looking carrot cake on Almost Bourdain and saw that it was a Bourke Street Bakery recipe, I had to make it just to get another taste of that BSB awesomeness. And it didn’t disappoint – it was a light and moist cake with bags of flavour and of course it just gets better with lashings of cream cheese frosting and candied walnuts. This may just be the best carrot cake ever.

Carrot Cake

from Almost Bourdain, adapted from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook

70 g (2 1/2 oz) walnuts
150 g (5 1/2 oz / 1 cup) self-raising flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
55 ml (1 3/4 fl oz / about 2) egg whites
60g (2 1/4 oz / 1/4 cup) sugar for egg whites
1 egg
1 egg yolk
160g (5 3/4 oz / 3/4 cup) sugar for egg yolks
170 ml (5 1/2 fl oz / 2/3 cup) extra light olive oil
125 g (4 1/2 oz) carrots, peeled and grated

Cream Cheese Frosting:
20 g (3/4 oz / 1 tsp) icing (confectioners’) sugar (I used about 40g coz I like it sweet =P)
20 g (3/4 oz / 1 tbsp) butter, softened
145 g (5 1/4 oz) cream cheese (preferably Neufchatel)
40 ml (1 1/4 fl oz / 2 tbsp) pouring (whipping) cream (35% fat)
candied walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF). Grease an 18 cm (7 inch) round cake tin and line the base and side with baking paper – the paper should protrude about 2.5 cm (1 inch) above the tin.

2. Place the walnuts on a baking tray and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly roasted. Cool and cut into thirds. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into a bowl. Repeat to ensure they are evenly mixed.

3. Put the egg whites in a very clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks start to form. Slowly pour in the sugar for the egg whites, while the motor is still running, being careful not to overmix – the meringue should reach soft peak stage. Quickly transfer the meringue to another bowl and set side until needed.

4. Put the egg and egg yolk in the bowl of the electric mixer and add the sugar for the egg yolks. Mix on high speed for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture doubles in volume and is quite airy. With the motor still running, slowly pour in the oil in a thin stream being careful that it doesn’t split or deflate too much.

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and with a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture until combined. Fold in the carrots and walnuts. Quickly and lightly fold in the meringue – do not fold it through completely, you should still be able to see streaks of meringue through the mix.

6. Pour into the preapred tin and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into centre of the cake comes out clean. You may need to drop the oven temperature to 180ºC (350ºF) after the first 30 minutes if the top is browning too quickly. (I cooked my cake at 180ºC for the whole duration and it was still burnt, so it depends on your oven.)

7. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting. Cream the icing sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and smooth. Add the cream cheese in small amounts, allowing it to completely incorporated before adding the rest. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl during this process to ensure even mixing. Add the cream and mix until smooth, being careful not to overmix at this stage or the cream may curdle and separate. If using a different type of cream cheese for this recipe you may need to add a little more cream – the frosting needs to be of a spreadable consistency but not at all runny.

8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Spread the cream cheese frosting over the top and sides of the cake, and top with candied walnuts.

Ripples at Sydney Wharf, Pyrmont

It’s been a bit quiet on the blogfront here, and uni is solely to blame. The thing is I haven’t stopped eating and cooking and so a sizeable backlog of photos is developing which I have yet to post about. Hopefully there will be more frequent posts from now on but I’m not guaranteeing anything because I think the onslaught of assignments and exams has only just begun!

It was my parents’ anniversary and they were jetsetting off to Europe for 3 weeks to celebrate (they’ve been back for a while now, which just goes to show how late I am with this post). We wanted to have one last family lunch together before my sister and I became parentless for 3 weeks, and we decided to go to Ripples at Sydney Wharf in Pyrmont.

Beef shortrib bourguignon, creamy parmesan and parsley pomme puree – $27

Ripples currently have a lunch promotion running which lets you have one of four mains, a glass of wine or beer plus coffee or tea for $29, Monday to Friday, which my parents and Sir D took advantage of. Dad chose the beef shortrib bourguignon, which was two fat beef ribs with the meat so tender it only needed a fork to prise it easily off the bone. The pomme puree was magically creamy and soft – it was so good I kept stealing some off his plate.

Vegetarian tasting trio: Potato and leek soup with gruyere toast, mushroom and rosemary risotto, goats cheese pomme dauphine – $28

My mum decided on the vegetarian tasting trio which consisted of three small morsels. The potato and leek soup had a super crunchy piece of gruyere toast with a small quenelle of garlic aioli and although I didn’t try this, Mum seemed satisfied. The mushroom and rosemary risotto was ok, but I really liked the goats cheese pomme dauphine (probably because it was deep fried!). It was like a potato croquette, and thankfully it wasn’t too heavy on the goats cheese flavour but I loved the crispy exterior and the smooth potato on the inside.

Ripples famous fish and chips, homemade tartare sauce, lemon – $24

I convinced Sir D to get the fish and chips, mainly because I wanted to try it hehe. It came in a huge portion, and when I tasted it I was almost disappointed that I hadn’t ordered it myself because it was that good. Ok, so the chips weren’t the best I’ve had, and the fish was nice especially with the light and crunchy batter but the star of the dish was the tartare sauce! I reckon dipping anything into that tartare sauce would make it taste amazing but it definitely made the dish for me.

Roast barramundi fillet on chive gnocchi, petit peas bonee femme with lardons – $29

My sister and I didn’t take part in the $29 lunch special because we wanted mains that weren’t part of the promotion. Charm went for the barramundi which sat prettily on top of some gnocchi, baby onions and buttery peas. The barramundi was cooked perfectly with a nice crisp skin and moist flesh. I liked the addition of the lardons on top of the fish – everything is better when paired with bacon :)

Confit ocean trout with crab, tomato fondue and parsley risotto – $29

I decided on the ocean trout which looks a little dry in the photo but was actually really juicy on the inside. I was very pleased that you could actually see chunks of crab meat in the risotto which had al dente rice and a nice tomato flavour that wasn’t too acidic. The portions of the mains looked quite small but we were all surprised to find that we were struggling to finish our dishes (especially Sir D and I who were suffering from major carb overload).

Burnt lemon tart, lemon curd bombe alaska and macadamia toffee – $13

But of course I always miraculously still have room for dessert. I was insistent on getting this lemon dessert after it came highly recommended from food bloggers, and it definitely did not disappoint. The burnt lemon tart had the most amazingly short and buttery pastry which went well with the citrusy custard. And I always get so much satisfaction out of the cracking my spoon through toffee and this tart had a great toffee crack. I couldn’t get enough of the torched meringue on the bombe alaska either, and I loved digging my way through the soft meringue to find the tart lemon curd on the inside.

Chocolate trio: chocolate fondant, salted caramel tart and chocolate marquise – $14

The other dessert we selected was the chocolate trio, and I’m so glad we shared this because it was so, so rich. We made our way from left to right, starting with the chocolate marquise which had a few semi-dried grapes on top. This was probably my least favourite of the three, with the sponge cake being quite dry and the marquise on the inside not quite enough to overcome this dryness. The salted caramel tart was like a mars bar (minus the nougat) with a lovely chocolate pastry to hold it all together. It was very sweet, I couldn’t really taste the salt in the caramel but I think the addition of more salt would have helped the tooth-aching sweetness after a while. The chocolate fondant looked like a plain ol’ chocolate cookie to me but once you put your fork into it, a dark chocolate lava oozed out from the centre and it was without a doubt my favourite of the three.

It was a very satisfying lunch and we left feeling full to the brim. Needless to say for the next three weeks I did not get to eat lunch as nice as this because my cooking could never compare to restaurant-quality food haha but more on my cooking adventures next time!

Ripples at Sydney Wharf
56 Pirrama Road
Pyrmont NSW 2009
Ph: +61 2 9571 1999
Breakfast: Saturday & Sunday, 8am-11am
Lunch: Monday to Friday, 12pm-3.30pm; Saturday & Sunday, 12pm-4pm
Dinner: Monday to Sunday, 6pm-9pm

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Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes, Ricotta and Spinach

One of the very first cookbooks I received as a gift was from my sister for my 18th birthday. At the time, I had no idea who Bill Granger was or what he was well known for, but flipping through Simply Bill I could immediately tell that Bill Granger’s approach to food was all about simplicity and a focus on fresh ingredients.

A while back I visited Bills in Surry Hills for dinner and my sister ordered this spaghetti dish which looked so minimalistic on the menu but was bursting with flavour. I remembered seeing the dish in Simply Bill so I tried out the recipe at home and was surprised at how simple it was to recreate.

The ricotta imparts a lovely creaminess to the pasta dish while roasting the vegetables brings out the natural sweetness from the onion and richness from the tomatoes. Toss it all into some cooked pasta with some baby spinach and you have yourself a quick and tasty dinner in no time!

Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes, Ricotta and Spinach

adapted from Simply Bill by Bill Granger

750g cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
small handful fresh oregano
100ml extra virgin olive oil
500g spaghetti
50g baby spinach
200g fresh ricotta
freshly grated pecorino, to serve (I used parmesan)

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Put the tomatoes, garlic, onion and oregano into a roasting tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until wilted.

2. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and toss with the tomato mixture, spinach and half the ricotta. Divide among serving bowls and top with the remaining ricotta and some freshly ground black pepper. Grate some pecorino on top and serve.