Monopole, Potts Point

When our group of girlfriends started treating the birthday girl to dinner in lieu of birthday presents, I realised what a good opportunity this was to finally check off some restaurants which have been on my go-to list for a long time…

Monopole was FeFiFoFum’s choice for her birthday dinner, and I was secretly pleased because it was a place that I had been wanting to visit for a while. The outside of the restaurant was so dark and inconspicuous that we nearly walked right past it, but when we finally opened the door, we saw that the dark exterior was matched by the “mood lighting” on the inside.

Luckily we had phones to light up the menu, which was split into cured meats, shared dishes, cheese and desserts. Instead of choosing a la carte dishes though, we went with the Monopole menu, which gave us 7 courses for $65pp.

Cured duck breast, cured pork neck, cured Rangers Valley tri tip

We started with three cured meats arranged on a wooden platter with some pickled vegetables. We had the cured duck breast (foreground), cured pork neck (background left) and cured Rangers Valley tri tip. The duck breast was probably the chewiest out of the three, with a slightly more gamey flavour. While others preferred the tri tip bresaola, I relished the silky fatty texture of the cured pork neck.

Cured trevally, pickled cucumber, smoked yoghurt and sea greens

We continued on with a cold course of cured trevally, which was served with discs of pickled cucumber, blobs of smoked yoghurt and sea greens. It was a light and cooling dish, with the slight acidity of the pickles tempered by the smokey yoghurt.

Rangers Valley beef tartare, egg yolk, mushroom and crisp potato skin
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Mrs Mi, Chatswood

I was waking up from an epic sleep-in on Saturday morning when I got a text from Captain Awesome.

“Hey are you going to that robot restaurant today??”

I usually consider myself relatively informed about new restaurant openings, but this I hadn’t heard of. Captain Awesome filled me in on the new Chinese restaurant in Chatswood which has a robot chef, and that as today was their opening day, they would be giving out free bowls of the signature pork mince noodles to the first 88 customers.

I was sold, and clearly Captain Awesome was as well as she’d been waiting for them to open since 10.30am that morning. So we drove out to join her to check out this robot chef in action.

The interior of Mrs Mi

Captain Awesome and a few others had already snagged a table by the time we got there, so we walked right on in, missing the robot chef, and joined them. The restaurant was pretty full and busy, with lots of staff on the floor to help out on the first day of trade.

The menu consists of Northern Chinese specialties, with a focus on dumplings and handmade noodles. We each chose a noodle and also ordered some dumplings to share.

Mrs Mi xiao long bao – $9.80

The xiao long bao were the first to arrive – there’s some stiff competition in the XLB arena in Chatswood with the likes of Din Tai Fung and New Shanghai, but Mrs Mi’s XLBs are damn good and are a serious contender. The dumpling skins were thin, with several pleats at the top, yet were sturdy enough to hold the flavoursome soup inside.

Braised pork belly with noodles – $13.80

All the noodles at Mrs Mi are sliced by the robot chef into a pot of boiling water. There’s a choice of having your noodles in broth or dry. The braised pork belly noodles had some fatty and tender pieces of pork, and some green Chinese vegetables thrown in for good measure. Even though this was a “dry noodle” dish, it still had enough of the braising liquid to coat the noodles with sauce.

Braised beef brisket, and tendon noodle soup – $14.80
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Kujin, Elizabeth Bay

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.

Cooking at the teppan

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.

Tsukune and chicken thigh skewers – $3.50 each

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.

Soft shell crab salad – $14
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Elephant Cupcakes

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 old favourites 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!’

When the package arrived, I opened it and saw some cute jungle animal cookie cutters, an edible ink pen, and a packet of coloured fondant.

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!


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Redfern Asado at The Norfolk, Surry Hills

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.

Beer can chicken

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.

Asado menu

The meats at Redfern Asado are sold by weight and priced per 100g, and all served with coca cola rice, beans and flour tortillas.

Keep it saucy…

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!

Meat platter!
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