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.
Japan is a country that is a little obsessed with the cute and cuddly. You’ll see kawaii mascots everywhere in Japan promoting TV channels, transport passes and even the cities and prefectures themselves! So when I see the logo of Harajuku Gyoza with its cutesy face, it’s almost like I’m back in Japan.
Inside, the kawaii theme continues with Japanese-patterned melamine plates and light fixtures saying ‘HAI!’. The menu is equally as cutesy, proclaiming “Welcome, Customer-san!”, before comparing your appetite to Godzilla and saying “We want your happy face”. As for the food items, naturally the menu is gyoza-heavy but there are also other Japanese side dishes and izakaya style dishes available.
There are 5 gyoza dishes at $8 each, and we manage to try 3 out of the 5. For the pork, chicken and duck gyoza, you can choose to have these either grilled or poached. We’re after the crispy burnished bottoms of the fried variety, so we choose to have our pork and duck gyoza fried.
It’s been a while since my last visit to Ippudo. While the queues are still there and the place is as busy as ever, the menu has expanded from comprising of mainly ramen with a small selection of sides and desserts, to a full blown a la carte menu to cater for everyone’s tastes.
Having such a large menu means that there were more decisions to be made. There was an overwhelming choice of different ramen soup bases, ramen toppings, entrees, salads, more substantial-sized dishes and rice dishes, so it took us a while to decide on what we wanted to eat.
The Ippudo pork buns are pretty much a must-order for me. The juicy grilled pork belly, crispy lettuce and pillowy-soft bun hit all the right notes. There was a nice balance of flavours though I could always do with some extra pork belly!
It’s a new year, so it seemed only fitting to check out a new restaurant to kickstart the blog this year! You can’t miss Marukame Udon on Victoria Street in Chatswood, as at any given time there will be people crowded around the glass storefront, checking out the new restaurant and watching the chefs make the noodles right in front of you.
You can also ogle at the menu before you go in, and it’s probably best that you do because once you join the line, the ordering station is not too far inside. There’s lots of different udon options as well as rice bowls. Select your noodles, size and hot or cold, and move down the canteen-style line until a friendly staff member takes your order. Within minutes they will be weigh out your portion of noodles, place them in a bowl, ladle over the sauce or soup and your noodles will be on your tray, ready to go.
But don’t go rushing off yet, because there’s tasty extras to be had! Marukame offers a selection of tempura, including chicken, fish, prawns, vegetables and pork katsu. There’s also some inari sushi (rice stuffed inside a sweet tofu pocket), and iced green tea. Once you get the end of the line, a staff member will calculate the cost of the items on your tray, before you pay and go off to add even more things to your noodles, like chopped shallots and crunchy tempura bits.
The tsuke udon is a cold noodle option which comes with a small bowl of broth on the side for dipping the noodles into. A small dish containing a wasabi paste sits on top of the bowl of broth for some added heat. The tempura white fish is fried well, with a crunchy batter but succulent flesh inside. The tempura vegetables, or kakiage, is a wonderful mess of shredded carrot, onion, corn and other vegies deep fried in a light batter.