There are so many goodJapaneserestaurants on the north side of the Bridge and aroundtheCBD, 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The weather is finally warming up which means that it’s time to go out and enjoy the sunshine! And what better way to enjoy the sunshine than a nice meal by the water where you can hear the waves lapping up against the pier and feel the warmth of the sun on your back.
The Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo is a great place to do this, as well as do a little bit of people watching while you dine. We visited Manta for lunch on a gloriously sunny day to celebrate The Cat’s birthday. We’d scored ourselves a voucher for 6 people for $259 – which came to less than $45pp for three courses. The set menu had a choice of three options per course, and also included a glass of house red or house white. Since we had a table of 6, we were able to order every item off the menu and I can safely say that all the dishes were delicious!
I started with freshly shucked oysters which included both the Pacific and Sydney Rock variety. The oysters came with a fresh lemon cheek, a sweet spring onion and apple dressing, and a tangy balsamic and pepper dressing. The oysters were deliciously briny and really didn’t need much more than a squeeze of lemon juice, but the spring onion and apple dressing also went quite well with the oysters.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Oxford Tavern is a seedy pub, seeing as up until last year, the main drawcards were the topless waitresses, jelly wrestling and the “live hot girls”. But since the Drink ‘n’ Dine group’s revamp of the inner west pub, the pokies area has been changed to a beer garden, “jelly wrestling” now refers to a dessert on the menu, and instead of girls, you can now get “live hot BBQ”!
Live hot BBQ sounds like something right up my alley, so we went to check out The Oxford Tavern’s new Black Betty BBQ. It’s an impressive beast of an outdoor smoker that has been operating for the past couple of months, churning out smoked meats cooked low and slow on the weekends until sold out.
There’s a range of smoked goodies on the menu, generally sold by weight. You can also see the prepared meats in the glass cabinet at the counter, and they all look amazing. Executive Chef of the Drink ‘n’ Dine group, Jamie Thomas, is there to serve up the meat himself, and he slices up a little bit of everything for us to try.
We end up with a huge platter of meaty goodness featuring all the menu items on the standard Black Betty BBQ menu, as well as the specials for the day.
The smoked chicken is the only poultry item on the Black Betty menu, and it has an amazingly smoky flavour and is succulent and juicy.