Even though there are plenty of cafes around my area, I still get a little excited when a new one pops up. Word on the street was that there was a new cafe in Artarmon that had awesome coffee and food to boot.
You’d never think that there was a hipster cafe down the little pedestrian walkway leading out from Artarmon train station, but in amongst the Japanese restaurants, convenience stores and bookshops is Salvage Specialty Coffee.
They take their coffee seriously here with the Mecca Dark Horse blend and single origin coffees on offer, and a rather amusing sign saying that any coffee “extras” cost 50c – extras that may or may not include “soy, extra shot, mocha, honey, vampire blood, unicorn tears, kisses from Zooey Deschanel”.
Apart from the normal espresso-based coffees, Salvage also do filter coffees including Aeropress and cold brews. The cold brew comes in a cute Salvage bottle and is served with a sphere of ice in a glass to keep it chilled.
Japan is a country that is a little obsessed with the cute and cuddly. You’ll see kawaii mascots everywhere in Japan promoting TV channels, transport passes and even the cities and prefectures themselves! So when I see the logo of Harajuku Gyoza with its cutesy face, it’s almost like I’m back in Japan.
Inside, the kawaii theme continues with Japanese-patterned melamine plates and light fixtures saying ‘HAI!’. The menu is equally as cutesy, proclaiming “Welcome, Customer-san!”, before comparing your appetite to Godzilla and saying “We want your happy face”. As for the food items, naturally the menu is gyoza-heavy but there are also other Japanese side dishes and izakaya style dishes available.
There are 5 gyoza dishes at $8 each, and we manage to try 3 out of the 5. For the pork, chicken and duck gyoza, you can choose to have these either grilled or poached. We’re after the crispy burnished bottoms of the fried variety, so we choose to have our pork and duck gyoza fried.
So it occurred to me a few months ago that it’s been AGES since I’ve posted a recipe – not since October last year in fact. It’s not that I don’t cook often because we eat regularly at home and I do bake for people’s birthdays and other special occasions, but sometimes I just can’t be bothered styling the food and taking photos of it. I just want to eat it.
So I thought it was time to get my mojo back, and even though I still haven’t quite got this food styling thing, it’s nice to be able to share recipes and baking successes – so here is my first recipe post in over 6 months.
I’ve had a chiffon cake tin for years and always had the intention of making it, but the thought of flat and dense chiffon cakes had always scared me off making them. I don’t know why I was so worried because after doing a bit of research and finding a recipe, I made my first chiffon cake with much success!
I chose matcha flavour because green tea is awesome and also because I’d just come back from Japan and was craving matcha desserts. The green tea flavour is quite subtle in this cake but what I particularly love about chiffon cakes is the light and airy texture which makes you feel like you’re eating a cloud. A green tea flavoured cloud!
I used a recipe that I adapted from Keiko Ishida’s book Okashi: Sweet Treats made with Love. The recipe calls for 5 eggs but uses a 20cm tin, so I have increased the amounts to fit my 25cm tin. This recipe worked really well for me and I’ve used it to also make a pandan flavoured chiffon cake and chocolate flavoured chiffon cake. Yep, there’s definitely going to be plenty of chiffon in my future! Continue reading →
Because we have a decent selection of spirits and mixers at home, we rarely go out to drink. Making drinks at home gives us the flexibility to make what we like, when we like – without the hefty price tag that often comes with cocktails. But sometimes, it’s worth the money to get the professionals to make something different that just might surprise and delight you, and we definitely found that at Pocket Bar.
We arrived at 7pm on a Friday night, and the place was already buzzing. The alcohol shelves behind the bar hold a massive range of spirits, and the extensive drinks list reflects that.
It takes us a while to read all the cocktails on offer but eventually we choose our poisons of choice. Sir D chooses “Day of the Dead” – a tequila-based cocktail with grapefruit bitters and vanilla sugar. The 1800 anejo tequila is aged so doesn’t have the same harshness as white tequilas, and you can taste citrus notes from the grapefruit and orange peel. Call me a sucker for novelty, but I’m most impressed with the sphere of ice that swirls around in the glass. Having the ice in a sphere shape cools your drink without diluting it as much as ice cubes. Genius!
It’s a bit early in the night to be saying “take your clothes off” but if you want this cocktail, you’ll have to say it to order it! This is another tequila-based cocktail, but this time it is the un-aged blanco tequila that is used. I usually find this a bit strong, but the agave honey, lime juice, pear puree and cinnamon tones it down and makes it quite easy to drink.
Jaypee decides to go for the Tiki Times (in the English undergrowth) cocktail which is mai-tai inspired but given a gin twist. The Appleton rum base is mixed with Haymans Old Tom and sloe gins, and ruby grapefruit juice. Despite the 3 spirits within this cocktail, it doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of alcohol and is actually quite sweet.
We decide that it’s best to get some food in our stomachs before all the alcohol goes to our head, and there’s lots to choose from on Pocket Bar’s menu. The menu is inspired by street food from all around the world so it’s a great snack-like accompaniment to the drinks. First up are the cassava chips with salsa huancaína. We had no idea what salsa huancaína was but it turned out to be a spicy cheese sauce with queso fresco and aji amarillo chili peppers. It was a bit pungent for some but I loved it, especially with the fat fried batons of cassava.
Food is king in Japan. You’d be hard pressed to walk down a city street without seeing a restaurant, shop or vending machine offering all sorts of weird and wonderful food. It’s tasty, convenient and absolute paradise for food lovers.
Walking into a Japanese department store basement is like walking into a David Jones Foodhall on steroids. There are literally food stalls as far as the eye can see, selling cakes, fresh fruit and vegetables, ready-to-eat food, snack food on sticks, carefully packaged gift boxes of food – it seriously just goes on and on. The first time I saw one of these was in the tunnels of Sapporo station and I was gobsmacked by the amount of food on offer (which turned out to be nothing compared to the huge department stores of Tokyo!)
I was keen to see the super expensive fresh fruit that I’d heard about in Japan, and yes, you can definitely buy 15 strawberries for 6680 yen (about $63AUD, or $4 a strawberry!)
We also saw beautifully presented boxes of cherries at a cool 6480 yen per box (~$60AUD)… right next to the almost-tennis-ball-sized strawberries which were 1620 yen for two (~$15AUD).
Aside from the exquisitely packaged but expensive fruit, there was also other fresh food to be purchased. The meat section had prepackaged cuts of beef, pork and chicken, including the most incredibly marbled cuts of wagyu! The fish section offered lots of fresh fish and seafood to be taken home for cooking, including many types that I hadn’t seen before.
I was particularly surprised to see thinly sliced fugu sashimi available for purchase at department stores. Fugu isn’t something I would eat anywhere except for a specialised fugu restaurant where I knew the chef was qualified and had knowledge on how to prepare it properly without poisoning me! I wasn’t game enough to try it in a department store, but if you want to try fugu without going to a restaurant, just head to your local department store fish section.