There has been a lot of hype and talk about Izakaya Fujiyama, a new Japanese bar and restaurant opened by Chef Kenji Maenaka who is exBodega. Izakaya Fujiayama is located on Waterloo Street, right next door to El Capo and of course Orto Trading Co. I was catching up with a couple of my favourite peeps, the fashionable, DC, Uncle and the gorgeous E. There’s no booking policy so made sure I rocked up a little early to get a table. I love the open bar with lots of sake bottles.
The menu is quite simple, think the sake list is more impressive! Four hungry diners thought we would pick a dish each. Started with the miso cured tofu ($6.50) – served cold, topped with a very nice salty miso.
Fish namban ($12) – fried snapper Japanese escabeche. Lightly battered and deep-fried, the snapper fillets were tender, it was nice but nothing special I thought.
Uncle opted for the salmon and avocado hand-roll ($4.50), which turned out to be a maki roll. Think Uncle was a little disappointed as he was expecting something like a Makoto hand-roll.
The pork belly with miso ($18.50) – steamed pork belly with hoba miso and baked eggplant really had my name on it! Tender, succulent steamed pork belly – goddamn it – it was melt-in-mouth excellent and I love the miso paste and the baked eggplant – fantastic! It was hard to not demolish this on my own!
However, the highlight of the evening for all of us was the jaw – the grilled king fish jaw and ponzu ($32). It was the biggest jaw I have ever seen, it was GIGANTIC! I didn’t realise there were so much flesh in the jaw! We all sat there, in silence, picking out all the flesh, and if I was dining at home, I would have picked up the bones at the end and ‘gnawed’ it – yes – classy I know!
Dessert, we shared the chocolate cake with quince ($11.50), warm chocolate cake with baked quince and condensed milk ice cream. The chocolate cake was rich, gooey and a little too sickly for me, however, I did like the sweet baked quince and the condensed milk ice cream.
We also shared the tea ceremony ($11.50) – vanilla bean ice cream with green tea kokuto syrup and red bean! The green tea syrup from memory was warm, I have to say, we ate this quite quickly! I would have preferred the ice cream to be green tea though.
Service was ok, I don’t think we were impressed that we got rushed out. It wasn’t a busy evening, no queues outside but was asked to leave, as we were presented with the bill even though we didn’t ask for it. We were all still quite peckish but nothing on the menu really ‘grabbed’ us. The jaw and the pulled pork were the highlights for me, but everything else was nice but no ‘wow’ factor. There were so much hype that I had HIGH expectations, and unfortunately, for me, it didn’t live up to it.
E suggested that we should drop by for some scotch eggs at Orto for round two, but unfortunately, they were fully booked so I suggested fried chicken at the Dip. Still amazed that they all agreed, I think we were all still quite hungry .. so off we went.
It was the first time for E and Uncle at The Dip. It was Friday evening and the place was packed and happening! We scored the last table and ordered round two of dinner!
D couldn’t go past the southern smoke ($12) – 12 hour smoked pulled pork sandwich with bbq beans, apple and cabbage slaw on a steamed white roll. Definitely our favourites!
E was craving hot dog so got Lev’s Dawg ($12) – smoked kosher hot dog with chipotle mayo, fresh tomato salsa, grilled yellow peppers and american mustard on a steamed bun. I have had this before and enjoyed it but still do prefer the southern smoke.
Uncle and I wanted fried chicken – the special on Friday’s (?) – four drumsticks with fries. Lucky he stopped at me at two boxes, I had suggested four boxes! ONE EACH! Not sure what I was thinking. Crispy, crunchy batter, chicken meat was tender, could be more tender I think. Still, it wasn’t too bad – love fried chicken!
I think the fried chicken and hot dog helped – we were both stuffed! Although, I think Uncle could definitely have eaten some more! ‘The Mother’ had a bucks night that evening, he said that he contemplated of calling me at 3am to ask if I would join him and the boys for some lobster at Golden Century. The scary thing is, if he did call, I would have walked down and joined him. If I did – that would be THREE rounds of dinner – and I wonder why I am not thin as a stick!
Regardless of being ushered out, it was a wonderful evening, never a dull moment with the fashionable DC, Uncle and the gorgeous E!
GA’s ratings: Izakaya Fujiyama: 6.5 / 10
51 Waterloo St Shop G09
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9698 2797
GA’s ratings: The Dip: 7.5 / 10
55 Liverpool St
Ph: +61 2 9283 8792
Vini has been around for a while now. I remember coming here many many years ago when it first opened. It’s a small place, sits about 24 people and serve Italian food. The food is simply, tasty and to be shared. If the name sounds familiar, the team behind Vini is also the team behind Berta and 121BC.
I remembered how dark this restaurant was and they don’t take reservation for dinner so suggested lunch. Menu is handwritten on the black board and consists of antipasti, entrée, mains and desserts. The wine list (a VAST one at that) is also neatly written on the blackboard.
Thinly sliced of ocean trout, the fennel and mint a wonderful complement and I love the nice spicy kick at the end. It was indeed refreshing and delicious.
Warm tender and succulent roast lamb, yes, I have taken a liking to lamb now! The chickpeas and rosemary a wonderful complement.
The coffee, superb! Unfortunately we were both too full for dessert but the ricotta panna cotta sounded interesting!
Service efficient and friendly, very casual and laid back place, menu is simple but excellent and changes daily! It did get rather noisy when the restaurant filled up. The food is as good as I remembered it to be. Can’t wait to go back and try their other dishes.
GA’s rating: 7.5 / 10
118 Devonshire Street
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9698 5131
There’s never really a shortage of cafe’s in Sydney. However there are a couple of places that I have gone back regularly in July and thought it was worth mentioning again. In no particular order…
Clover – a favourite of ours, we have been here numerous times since my last visit in November 2010. I love the friendly atmosphere, the food stupendous and consistently good! ‘The Mother’ and I were catching up with a couple of our friends who lives in the area. I won’t go into too much detail of each food, the picture pretty much speaks for itself.
‘The Mother’ had the lamb eight eggplant, couscous, spinach eggplant – full of flavour and the lamb incredibly tender.
The special of the day was the lamb shanks served with figs and yogurt and wow! This was my first encounter with lamb shanks and I LOVED it! It didn’t have that smell or after taste, the lamb incredible succulent and just fall off the bone. The figs, a wonderful complement. I came back about two weeks later and had the exact lamb shanks again!
Last time we were there, we got these wonderful complimentary brownies with walnuts served with ice cream and berry compote.
Breakfast / Lunch: can’t start the day with macchiato coffee – love coffee art, and this was superb!
The breakfast trifle is one of my favourites – muesli, yogurt and berry compote – in my mind its ‘healthy’ and frigging tasty.
If you haven’t had Josh’s brioche – you are missing out! Brioche with Jam – loved the texture of the brioche, so smooth and creamy and the jam… fantastic!
You can’t go wrong with the wagyu burger – I know Uncle loves the burger here.
Here’s another close up of the magnificent ribs!
And of course, the famous soft shell crab omelette – need i say more?
For dessert, if you want something sweet – sponge cake – fluffy, moist, check out the cream and jam!
Dinner: Lamb cutlets with panko crumbs – LOVE! The crumbs deliciously crispy and lamb cutlets deliciously tender.
Ai’s frigging awesome fried chicken – again lots of flavours with garlic – I still do prefer the fried chicken wings though!
Le Monde: another favourite of mine! The daily specials changes… daily! I have been waiting for the pork belly to resurface but it hasn’t. The salads here are amazingly tasty, light but yet filling. The breakfast divine. However, one of the standouts I had is the zucchini fritters with smoked salmon and spinach – DELICIOUS! Make sure you wait for it to cool before putting a large chunk in your mouth! Burnt the top of my mouth as I was hungry and it looked stupendous, and it was!
I was curious to see how many cafes I keep returning, and the above three got loads of love in July! Will do a August next month and see. Is there a cafe that you keep going back too?
78 Booth Street
Ph: +61 433 258 252
82 Campbell Street
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9281 1688
83 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9211 3568
Trying to decide where to eat in Surry Hills can be a little daunting and confusing sometimes. There are so many restaurants and cafes that it is hard to pick which one. El Capo has been on my list for a while now, ‘The Mother’ and I were supposed to go for dinner, but when we rocked up on a Friday night at about 7.30pm, they said we had to wait for 45 minutes that we both walked away and said next time.
El Capo can be found on Waterloo Street, ‘sandwiched’ between Orto Trading Co and Izakaya Fujiyama. El Capo serves Latin Amerian food, it is all about ‘latin flavours’ and the menu focuses on pickles, chili and smoke.
The restaurant is quite small, about six communal tables with mismatched chairs. My favourite would have to be this stool made out of US100 dollar bills! Uber cool!
Whilst waiting for the lovely S, I ordered a glass of tamarind juice. Deliciously refreshing with a slight tang.
S on the other hand opted for arroz con pollo – Caribbean chicken rice. Risotto like, it was nice but it was extremely creamy and left a very strong sour aftertaste. If you like the cream and tang then this is the dish for you as it would be perfect for winter. Apparently it is one of their best sellers, however, not for me.
I don’t think S enjoyed his dish as much as I did. The portions for each servings were definitely generous. More options for dinner, I’m definitely keen to try the pork cheeks, smoked passionfruit, congo potatoes! The fish ceviche sounds divine too.
GA’s ratings: 7 / 10
G08/52 Waterloo Street
Surry Hills 2010
Ph: +61 2 9699 2518
I really enjoyed the [TOYS] event earlier this year in March that I was determined to go to the next one. So when I found out they were holding another event I couldn’t say no. It was at Porteno – one of my favourite restaurant, and the theme was ‘Old Dogs, New Tricks’, chef partnerships between [TOYS] and their mentors. Huge ‘cast’ of chef, I had high expectations – love majority of the chef and well, it did not disappoint. At $220 per person, for six courses, it was expensive as hell but worth every penny! Loads of food and flowing alcohol, as each course was matched with wine and thank goodness I didn’t drive!
The event started at 6pm, I ‘dragged’ the gym enthusiast, S with me and at 6 on the dot we were there. I knew both M and Y were also attending. We started with a cocktail by Luke Ashton: New Sensation which is Laird’s applejack apple brandy, aperol, bespoke mandarin syrup and pimento dram. It was STRONG – kind of burn sensation and not great if you are thirsty – it’s one of those drinks that you drink slowly – sip by sip (well for me anyway!).
Canapes by Morgan McGlone (ex Flinders Inn, it is his last TOYS event as he is moving to New York! So cut I didn’t get to try his restaurant!) and his inspiration Mark Holmes, ferran prawn dumplings which was tortellini with prawns inside. It was tasty and I could have easily eaten half a dozen on my own.
Unfortunately, I didn’t try the boo-kaki and not even sure what that is! I love the layout of Gardel’s Bar which can be found above Porteno restaurant, we chatted, drank, ate canapes and after about an hour, we moved downstairs where the feast was to start!
Started with trumpeter fish by Hamish Ingram (Bar H, Surry Hills) and Damian Pignolet. Such a simple and refreshing dish, the sashimi was fresh and the celery, radicchio and chervil a wonderful complement. It was the perfect start.
Red Herring, pickled stalks, mackerel, smoked pine curd by Darren Robertson (ex Tetsuyas) and Dave Pegrum (also ex Tetsuyas, then moved to Forbes and Burton and now head Chef at the Bronte Road Bistro). This was another light dish, served at room temperature, the mackerel was deliciously sour, a little slimy for some and the dollops of goats cheese gave it that extra flavour. Y didn’t enjoy this as much as M, S and I. There were mix reviews amongst the diners, but it was a definite winner for me.
Ham, cheese and eggs by Mitch Orr (Duke, Darlinghurst) and Giovanni Pilu (Pilu at Freshwater) was probably my least favourite. I can see what Mitch was trying to do – shaped like an ‘egg’, the white layer is actually pecorino and it was strong, salty and extremely cheesy! TOO strong for my liking, I loved the ham stock, full of flavour and I have to admit, it did complement the cheese, but it was just a little too much for me. It was a love or hate dish and Y certainly enjoyed it more than the rest of us.
The truth by Thomas Lim (Duke) and Jeremy Strode (Bistrode, ex Bentley), Pig’s trotter stuffed with veal sweetbreads, chicken mousse, shiitake and ginger, garlic chive, pickled onions, beer mustard was divine! Both M and I were a little ‘nervous’ as his last dish at TOYS event wasn’t a favourite of ours but we were both pleasantly surprised.
The trotter was SO tender it just melted in my mouth. The beer mustard excellent and pickled onions a wonderful complement and I really couldn’t get enough of it. Could have definitely eaten another serving!
Tastes like Chicken by Joel Humphries and Nick Wong (Bodega, Surry Hills) and Ben Milgate, Elvis Abrahanowicz (Porteno, Surry Hills), New Zealand milk-fed lamb, smoked eggplant, flatbread cooked in its own ash was TO DIE FOR!
You all know how much I don’t like lamb, but this was moist and deliciously tender and as M said ‘true to it’s name – tasted like chicken!’. I couldn’t help but have a couple of pieces and could have happily eaten more!
The sides – where do I start? The eggplant puree – magnificent, but it is the flatbread that’s like icing on the cake. It was just SUPERB! Seriously superb and should definitely be on the Porteno menu! M managed to sneak in an extra piece of bread from Joel! Believe it or not, for both M and I, this was a standout dish and this is coming from two girls who does not love lamb, and would avoid it like plague!
The German cake is very similar to that of an Indonesian version of kue lapis and one of my favourite! So thin and soft and oh so frigging delicious. Inside, ice cream and chocolate and oh so good! The chocolate paddle pop like is actually vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and orange peanut brittle – oh dear god, I am certain I had a foodgasm! I didn’t know which one to eat first, the cake? the ice cream? the cake? It was phenomenal and one of the BEST dessert Zumbo has done!
To end, cocktail by Simon McGoram: ‘Till the Bitter End’ – espresso liqueur and my goodness, so strong that I could only have a sip and that was it. Each course was complemented by a wine – to be honest, I can’t remember the flavours of each, by the third glass of red wine, everything tasted wonderful!
Both M and I have similar taste and for both of us, the most outstanding dish of the evening definitely the Porteno’s lamb – I had great expectations from the Porteno boys and they truly did not disappoint! It trumped over the pig’s trotter and I LOVE PORK! Second was definitely the pig’s trotter followed by the mackerel for me, and silver trumpet for M. The dessert is really on a class of its own. If I wasn’t so full, I would have definitely gone in the kitchen and asked Zumbo for another!
Glad to have met the chefs, and chatted. Give me the trotter for entree, lamb for main and German cake for dessert anytime of the week and I will be ONE SERIOUSLY HAPPY GIRL!
Definitely the BEST TOYS event thus far! It will be hard to top the next event, it was ‘fan-bloody-tastic’. Very impressed with the food, service, alcohol, EVERYTHING was just magnifique and waddled to the car exhausted but extremely satisfied!
Again thanks to the chef and Mel for organising everything.
GA’s ratings: 8.5 / 10
358 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills 2010