Cho Cho San, Potts Point

Well hello again, it’s been a while! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to Hokkaido in Japan where we got stuck in the airport both there and back, and when we finally landed on home soil, I was off again on another interstate work trip!

So it’s kind of nice to be home, and to have time to sit down and blog and just chill. But one thing I started to miss as soon as we got back to Australia was the incredible food in Japan – hell, even the fast food there is way better (Mos Burger anyone?)

So yes, this post is about Japanese food, coz you all know I can never get sick of the stuff. I’d had Cho Cho San on my radar for a while, so I was pretty happy when Charm chose this restaurant to have her farewell dinner.

Tempura eggplant miso – $13

The menu has a selection of dishes designed for sharing, which suited us perfectly as we were able to try little bits of everything. We started with the tempura eggplant miso, a deep fried take on the classic nasu dengaku. The tempura batter was wonderfully light, encasing soft pieces of eggplant and drizzled with a sweet miso sauce, sesame seeds and shallots.

Beef tataki, wild rice, ginger dressing – $14

The beef tataki was like no other I’d had, with super thin slices of fatty raw beef that melted in the mouth, with nutty-tasting wild rice for texture and a light ginger dressing.

Hokkaido scallops, yuzu, katsuoboshi – $18

One of the best things about visiting Hokkaido is the amazing seafood, particularly the crab and scallops. Hokkaido scallops are plump and sweet, and especially sweet when eaten raw. The hokkaido scallop dish at Cho Cho San played up the sweetness of the scallops by contrasting it against the umami flavours of the katsuoboshi (dried bonito) and the tangy flavour of yuzu. There was also chopped radish and wakame seawood for colour.

Tuna, avocado, pickled eggplant – $22
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Buffalo Dining Club, Darlinghurst

For a long time, the only cheese I knew about was the plasticky slices of Kraft Singles. I remember trying to make grilled cheese as a kid and wondering why my cheese didn’t ooze and melt under the grill quite like the ones I saw on TV.

It wasn’t until later on in life that I realised that there was a whole world of cheeses beyond Kraft Singles, all with different flavours and textures. I soon discovered that soft, creamy cheeses like brie and camembert, and stretchy, mild flavoured cheeses like mozzarella were amongst some of my favourites, and sought them out like they were going out of fashion.

Buffalo Dining Club menu

It wasn’t long before I found out about burrata, a stretchy pouch of milky mozzarella that holds a surprise flowing river of rich thickened cream inside. When I saw it on the menu at Buffalo Dining Club, I knew I had to have it. The other cheeses would have to wait because the burrata was calling my name!

Burrata with choice of two sides – $20

All the cheeses at Buffalo Dining Club are $20 each and come with a choice of two sides. We decided to get the potato croquettes and honey baby carrots to go with our cheese. The plate also comes with some bread and nduja, a spicy sausage that you can spread onto the bread.

Burrata
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Ramen O-San, Haymarket

The year feels like it’s only just begun and already there are new ramen shops popping up all over Sydney. The latest one to open is Ramen O-San, which hails from Kyushu, Japan’s most southwesterly island that encompasses the prefectures of Fukuoka, Okinawa and Nagasaki, amongst others.

Ramen O-San’s Sydney store

Ramen O-San’s Sydney shop is the 7th shop to open, with 5 stores already open in Japan and one store in Cambodia. The soup base here is a shoyu tonkotsu base, made by boiling pork bones down for 10 hours and adding in soy sauce at the end. Most of the ramen on the menu is a tonkotsu-based, however there are some which combine the pork bone broth with a chicken or fish stock.

Ramen O-San’s menu

I opt for the black garlic ramen, which is basically the original tonkotsu ramen with a bit of black garlic thrown in. There’s a streak of black garlic oil on one side of the bowl which is fragrant with garlic flavour and adds another dimension to the tonkotsu soup base.

Black garlic tonkotsu ramen – $10.80
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Exploring Kyoto: Nishiki Markets, Gion and Kaiseki

It’s been a while between Japan posts but I’m trying to get through everything before I head to Japan again in less than 30 days! (not that I’m counting). After travelling through Hokkaido and catching a quick flight to Osaka, we used Osaka as a base to explore other areas in the region. After travelling through Hokkaido and catching a quick flight to Osaka, we used Osaka as a base to explore other areas in the region.

Entrance to Remm Shin-Osaka

We stayed at the remm hotel in Shin-Osaka station which was a clean and ultra modern hotel within the station building. Being at a major train station that had several train lines going through it meant that it was a great location to travel easily to other cities via the shinkansen, which also made good use of our JR passes.

We had to be quite ruthless in whittling down our itinerary seeing as we only had a few days in Osaka. Since neither Sir D nor I were particularly interested in sightseeing temples and stuff, we decided to do a couple of touristy sightseeing things before spending time on the more important things – food!

1000 torii gates

On our way to Kyoto, we stopped at Inari station to see the Fushimi Inari shrine. As we walked up the mountain, the torii gates became smaller but more numerous, until we got to senbon torii (thousands of torii gates), where the trail split into two pathways. It was quite a breathtaking sight to walk through a tunnel of bright orange, with the rays of sunlight filtering through the small spaces between the dense torii gates and reflecting off the wood to give an orange glow.

Inscriptions on each torii

The shrine is dedicated to the god Inari, the god of kitsune (foxes), fertility, rice, sake, agriculture and industry. It’s no surprise then that there are fox souvenirs and statues scattered around the shrine.

Kitsune fortunes
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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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