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.
I used to love buffets. The thought of being able to eat as much as you want was like heaven for me and invariably, it would result in us paying loads of money, stuffing our faces to ensure we get value for money (don’t even think about wasting stomach space on bread!), and then feeling ill for the rest of the night.
Now, I’m much more inclined to spend my money on smaller portions of better quality food, at a place that focuses on one type of food and does it well, rather than going somewhere where I can eat huge quantities but not so great food. Well, it turns out these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. At Pizza Autentico, a mere $20 gets you all you can eat, high-quality pizza and pasta made fresh by Italian chefs for 90 minutes straight.
The unlimited pizza and pasta menu has over 10 pizzas and 5 pastas to choose from, which waiters bring out straight from the kitchen. The pizzas and pastas are served to each diner so you get the opportunity to taste a little bit of everything.
Before we get started on the pizzas and pastas though, a small board of olives, olive tapenade, olive oil and house made bread is brought out to whet the appetite. All the fresh ingredients used at Pizza Autentico are sourced from Salt Meats Cheese in Alexandria, so you know it’s going to be good!
It doesn’t take long for the pizzas to start flowing. Each pizza is brought around and you’re asked if you want a slice. Um… yes please! The first one we try is the n’duja pizza, a napoli sauce base with spicy Italian pork sausage and mozzarella.
I’ve passed by Li’l Darlin several times in Darlinghurst, and have always meant to drop by for a cheeky cocktail or two. But it’s hard when Gelato Messina is only a few doors down, and somehow gelato always became a priority when walking down Victoria Street and the idea was quickly forgotten. Gelato can do that to you sometimes.
Luckily Li’l Darlin also has two other locations in Surry Hills and Randwick (which aren’t in very close proximity to a gelateria) so there was nothing to stop me from dropping by Li’l Darlin in Surry Hills to try some food and cocktails.
We begin with a few starters, including salt and pepper calamari with a choice of two sauces, nahm jim sauce or chipotle aioli. The calamari is perfectly tender and the chipotle aioli delivers a slightly spicy kick but I find the batter a little oily for my liking.
The arancini balls are crispy round nuggets of risotto stuffed with feta, fontina, tomato and herbs. It’s also served with the same chipotle aioli but I find that they’re perfectly tasty on their own.
A terracotta pot arrives on the table accompanied by some bread and we realise that lurking within the tomato-based sauce are some delectable grilled prawns. They’re great smothered in the tomato and chilli sauce and I keep going back for more of these.
I’m always drawn to places that do one thing, and do it very well. To me, it means that all focus and dedication is placed onto one type of food and mastering it, making it the best it possibly can.
There’s no prizes for guessing what Pasta Emilia’s main strength is. The pasta here is made onsite and with organic ingredients, using recipes from the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy which is famous for its pasta. Pasta Emilia makes several types, including fettuccine, strozzapreti and filled pastas like ravioli and tortelli. While these are all available for purchase in convenient take home packs and sauces, we decided to eat in at the rustic, cottage-like cafe in Surry Hills for dinner one night.
We’re here for the pasta so we skip the entrees and dive straight in. The house made strozzapreti is a short pasta that kind of reminds me of DNA strands with its rolled and twisted structure. Strozzapreti literally means “priest stranglers” and legend has it that the name comes from the fact that priests enjoyed the pasta so much, they ate it too quickly and choked themselves! Whether that’s true or not, make sure you savour every mouthful of this strozzapreti that’s mixed with a rich beef ragu topped with a sprinkling of parmesan.
Paramount Coffee Project has been on my go-to list for some time now, so when a public holiday conveniently rolled around, I made the most of my day off and took the opportunity to pay them a visit.
The cafe space is airy and bright, with a few small tables, some larger, family-style tables in the centre of the cafe and counter seating at the coffee bar. We’re lucky to get a table quickly at the big shared table, but the place is quite popular around lunchtime and we notice some people having to wait until a table becomes available until they are seated.
Coffee is serious business here with coffee beans displayed on the bar and a few coffee blends on offer from Reuben Hills and Seven Seeds. There’s the option of filter coffee or espresso based drinks, but for today we stick with our stock-standard lattes.