All posts by Jacq

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The Smoking Panda, Sydney

I always get a little thrill when I find the doorway to a hidden bar. It’s that rewarding feeling of solving the puzzle of where the bar entrance is, and of knowing something that’s maybe a little bit secret.

That’s how I felt when we walked into the Hotel Coronation, a dingy looking pub on Park Street that I’ve walked past hundreds of times. We knew there was a small bar around here somewhere but it certainly didn’t look like there was one when we entered the pub. We wandered upstairs to what I think was the actual hotel guest rooms (yep, definitely no small bar there), back down the stairs again, and up another flight of stairs where we began to see the fluorescent glow of pink neon lights of The Smoking Panda.

Blackberry & Sage Smash – $17

There’s an old skool Chinese takeaway restaurant feel in the decor, with booth seating and Chinese restaurant-style chairs and tables, but we wander past these and the lanterns straight over to the bar, where we fix ourselves up with a cocktail or two.

Interestingly, the drinks list deviates from the Chinese theme, with an American slant on the cocktails and a big focus on bourbon – there’s more than 50 types of bourbon available from the bar! Our first cocktail of the night, the bourbon-based Blackberry & Sage Smash is fruity but not too sweet, with the tart blackberry and lemon flavours layered over the bourbon.

Georgia Peach – $17

The Georgia Peach is also a bourbon-based cocktail with fresh peach and mint over crushed ice, making for a refreshing drink.

Blue Lagoon – $17

We spy someone order the Blue Lagoon, a lurid blue drink that by all accounts was actually quite tasty. That blue stuff? That’s blue curaçao, gin, vodka, lychee and dragonfruit which is topped with a lemonade foam and popping candy. We got a little taste of the lemonade foam which tasted kind of like a Sprite creaming soda.

San Choy Bao – $5 each

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The Burger Shed, Mosman

There’s something about a burger that makes it so satisfying. It might be the soft fluffy bun, the juicy meat patty, or the melty, oozy cheese (cheese is a must!) – whatever it is, it always hits the spot. I’m always on the look out for a good burger, so when The Cheerleader (who also loves a good burger) told me about a burger place in Mosman, we headed there quick smart to check it out.

Upon looking at The Burger Shed’s menu, I thought it looked strangely familiar… and when I saw the truffle parmesan fries, it hit me that this was one of Justin North’s burger joints, and that the menu was similar to the one at Charlie and Co.

Watermelon and ginger crush – $6

Not to worry though, as I do love Charlie and Co’s burgers, and there were enough differences between the menus to keep us interested. Like this watermelon and ginger crush, which had a lovely pink blush colour to it and was super refreshing.

BBQ corn, chilli salt butter – $5

Despite being called the Burger Shed, the menu also had some non-burger items like salads, tortilla wraps, desserts and corn! Queen Chu and I both love our corn so this BBQ corn with chilli salt butter was a must.

Vintage Cheeseburger – $9.90
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Ume Restaurant, Surry Hills

There are so many good Japanese restaurants on the north side of the Bridge and around the CBD, that I rarely feel the need to venture further for Japanese food. So it takes a special restaurant to warrant a trip beyond my usual sphere of comfort and convenience, but it certainly pays off when you’re visiting a restaurant like Ume.

Ume is tucked away in a leafy section of Bourke St, Surry Hills, which makes it a quiet and peaceful location for dinner. The restaurant is simply decorated, with a plum blossom painting on one wall that references the restaurant’s name, “ume”, meaning “plum” in Japanese. Head Chef Kerby Craig, who trained under Tetsuya Wakuda before opening Koi in Woolwich and then Ume in Surry Hills, has created a menu that focuses on Japanese food with traditional and modern elements using local and sustainable ingredients. Every day except for Saturday, diners can choose from a 5-course ($67) or 7-course ($87) degustation menu, or opt to go a la carte. Saturday is limited to degustation only.

Raw deep sea prawns, prawn oil, walnuts, okahijiki, 1 year old preserved lemon, saishikomi soy – $21

We decide to go a la carte mainly because of the ama ebi dish which is not on the degustation menu. I fell in love with ama ebi (deep sea prawns) when I was in Japan and I rarely see it on menus here in Sydney, so I had to order it. The sweetness of the raw prawns pair well with the crunchy walnuts, seaweed and the subtle tartness of the preserved lemon. After tasting this dish, I knew that the rest of the meal was going to be a treat.

Seared Hokkaido scallop, Shibanuma shoyu brown butter, native finger lime, dulse – $21

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Ichi-ban Boshi, Sydney

Back in the day when I knew absolutely nothing about ramen and Sir D hated the stuff, Ichi-ban Boshi was one of the first ramen places I ever visited and blogged about. I remember thinking that the queues outside the restaurant must mean that they’re serving up some pretty good food, but to be honest after my first visit I was not particularly wowed.

Things have changed a lot since then – lots of ramen places have opened up in the last couple of years meaning that I’ve been able to try different types of ramen and just eat a lot more ramen in general! So when I visited Ichi-ban Boshi again armed with my new ramen knowledge, it was quite a different experience

Iced green tea cappuccino – $4.80

A hot night meant that a cold drink was in order, and while Ichi-ban boshi has sake and Japanese beers on offer, I settled on an iced green tea cappuccino. The milky green tea is topped with an impressive amount of milk foam and raw sugar crystals. The drink also comes with a little jug of sugar syrup which you can add to your drink to adjust the sweetness of it.

Gyoza – $6.50

We start with the gyoza which we’re told is one of the most popular items on the entree section of the menu. The gyoza are made in house and we can see why they’re so popular – the bottoms are nicely crisped up and the dumpling pastry is rolled out quite thin. The gyoza are served on a soy and vinegar dipping sauce.

Grilled ox tongue – $11

I’m a sucker for ox tongue so when we spot this on the menu we have to order it. There’s six pieces of thinly sliced ox tongue which are grilled and served with salt and chilli powder, and a wedge of lemon which is squeezed over the meat. The tongue is a little chewy but the fact that it’s been sliced so thinly means that it’s not at all difficult to eat.

Negimiso ramen- $11.90
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The Cut Bar & Grill, Sydney

It’s easy enough to make a decent steak at home, but there’s something about the dark furnishings and luxury of being able to pick and choose lots of sides to go with your steak that make it a bit of a treat. I decided to treat Sir D on his birthday with a visit to The Cut Bar & Grill for some tasty meat.

As you walk downstairs into the restaurant, it’s almost like you’re walking into a secret underground cavern. The restaurant itself is dark and moody with plush leather banquette seating as well as individual tables.

Scallops, peas, mushroom, bone marrow – $25

We’re here for the beef but we decide to start with a few entrees to whet our palates. The words ‘scallops’ and ‘bone marrow’ catch my eye so we order the scallop entree which has three juicy seared scallops sitting on some crumbled blood pudding, with peas, mushrooms and little blobs of bone marrow. The earthy flavours of the blood pudding and mushrooms pair quite well with the sweet scallops which are perfectly cooked.

Beef tartare, quail egg, truffle mustard, traditional garnishes, lavosh – $35
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