Category Archives: Reviews

Papi Chulo, Manly

When I think of Manly, I think of eating fish and chips by the beach, and soaking up the sun with an ice-cream in hand, trying to eat it all before it melts. I certainly didn’t think of American BBQ, but that’s all changed now that Papi Chulo is in town.

Part American grill and smokehouse, part South American cantina, Papi Chulo is definitely a people pleaser with its vast array of dishes ranging from BBQ meat platters to empanadas to even some Asian-inspired dishes like green mango salad. It’s location on Manly Wharf makes it perfect for idling the weekend away with some cocktails and a long lunch, while watching the boats drift by on the water.

Pea guacamole with tortilla chips – $14

We start off with a few snacks. The pea guacamole doesn’t sound particularly interesting on the menu but this is a damn good dish. The guacamole is smooth and creamy and the addition of peas adds a bit of sweetness. Crunchy tortilla chips are provided to scoop up the dip and it pretty much disappears in a flash.

Ceviche of kingfish – $17

The kingfish ceviche has tangy cubes of raw kingfish that has been lightly ‘cooked’ in lime juice, making each piece tangy but still retaining the texture of raw fish. There’s also some jalapeno in there for a spicy kick and pineapple pieces for a bit of sweetness. My favourite bits are the crispy corn kernels which have been deep fried and seasoned which add a nice crunch and textural interest.

Smoked hot wings with comeback sauce – $17
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Yasaka Ramen, Sydney

No Ramen, No Life. It’s pretty much a mantra I live by, as I find myself getting insatiable cravings for ramen every couple of weeks. I was pretty excited to hear about yet another ramen place opening up in the CBD – and run by an ex-Gumshara chef as well! We found ourselves heading over to Yasaka Ramen a few weeks after it had opened to check out what the fuss was about, and to see if chef Takeshi Sekigawa had brought the infamously rich Gumshara tonkotsu broth with him.

Making takoyaki

The first thing you see when you walk into the restaurant are several takoyaki cast iron moulds where a chef is busily turning the octopus balls to make sure they get just the right amount of crispiness. It’s just as well that they have several of these moulds along one wall of the restaurant as there’s lots of different takoyaki to choose from including wasabi soy, teriyaki sauce with egg salad, and grilled cheese!

Takoyaki (8pcs) – $10

We have to order some takoyaki after seeing them being freshly made out the front. The takoyaki are nicely cooked and creamy on the inside, with a touch of ginger and lashings of takoyaki sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito flakes.

Menu

But the focus here is, of course, on the ramen. A full page of the menu is dedicated to three variants of thick tonkotsu pork bone broth – tonkotsu shoyu, tonkotsu shio, and tonkotsu miso – with a variety of toppings. The ramen noodles are also made in house and sometimes you can see them being cut into thin strands out the front of the restaurant.

Egg ramen (tonkotsu shoyu base) – $14.80
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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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