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.
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.
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.
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 oldfavourites 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!’
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!
I’ve been to the Norfolk a couple of times before – once for crab and once for tacos – but when we get there on a Sunday afternoon there’s a very different vibe. It’s dead quiet on the inside of the pub, but follow the smell of meat and the sound of people talking and you’ll find yourself in a lush beer garden out the back.
Here is where Chef Jamie works his magic with the meat every Sunday from noon, when the Redfern Asado kicks off. There are all kinds of meats in the counter, including heaving slabs of beef and pork ribs and an impressive looking beer can chicken standing tall and upright, with glistening skin.
Asado translates to ‘barbecue’ in several South American countries, where it refers to the barbecuing of meats as well as the actual event of attending a barbecue. It usually involves grilling a range of meats over a charcoal-fuelled open fire for long period of time, resulting in slow-cooked meat with a smoky flavour from the coals.
The meats at Redfern Asado are sold by weight and priced per 100g, and all served with coca cola rice, beans and flour tortillas.
There’s also (literally) buckets of sauce to go with your meat feast. There’s a choice of salsa rojo, a red tomato-based sauce with a bit of a spicy kick, or a vibrant fresh green chimmichurri made with garlic and herbs. Both are great with the meats, and it’s really up to personal preference whether you use one or both!
Since opening late in 2014, LuMi Bar & Dining has been on my radar for a while. I’d seen lots of photos on Instagram and heard about the awesome pasta dishes, so when my birthday rolled around earlier this year (yes, this is a very delayed post!), I requested to have my birthday dinner at LuMi.
The cuisine is a unique blend of Japanese and Italian influences, brought on by head chef Federico Zanellato’s training both at Ryugin in Tokyo and Ormeggio at the Spit. There is an option of an a la carte menu, but we decided to go with the 8 course tasting menu which was only $95pp.
The restaurant is located where the old Ripples at Sydney Wharf used to be – right on the pier overlooking Pyrmont Bay and facing Metcalfe park. The glass walls of the restaurant let in lots of natural light during the day, but be warned that it does get quite dark at night so apologies for the declining photo quality as the night goes on!
We start with a plate of four snacks which are perfect mouthfuls to whet the appetite. My favourite was the cheese tartlet with corn – a classic flavour combination. The rice chips with salt and vinegar were also interesting wafer-like rice paper sheets that melted in the mouth, just leaving the salt and vinegar flavour behind.
Sushi Samurai in Neutral Bay used to be one of my local favourites for Japanese food, but since new Japanese restaurants started opening up around the area, it seems to have fallen off my radar. I’m glad it was brought to my attention again though by Washoku Lovers, because even though it now has a new name and a new fancy touch-screen ordering system, the food is still just as good – I know because I wrote a blog post about it about 5 years ago! (excuse the crappy photos)
In true izakaya style, we kick start our meal with alcohol. Sake is our choice of drink tonight, and we’re presented with three different sakes to sample before making a choice. Each has its own distinct flavour, with the Otokoyama being quite dry and the Urakasumi being sweeter.
Izakaya Samurai also offers different specials on different nights of the week. Dining between 5.30pm and 7pm on a Monday night means you can get a sushi and sashimi combo for half price.
The combo has some fresh salmon, tuna and kingfish sashimi, along with a neat row of nigiri and salmon and avocado rolls.
There’s a good selection of fish on the plate, including plump scallops, cuttlefish and ikura salmon roe which pop in the mouth.