Australia, Sydney, Sydney - CBD

Masu Izakaya

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Masu Izakaya

An izakaya is a casual Japanese drinking place where people can go after work to grab a few drinks while chewing on yakitori skewers. To find a place in Sydney where there is a friendly vibe, with a good variety of drinks and food, is not easy, but we think we may have found the place.

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Located in Chinatown, Masu Izakaya has only been opened for a few weeks. It has a really nice atmosphere with bright lights creating a warm hue, exposed brick walls giving it a rustic look, and comfortable leather chairs. The inclusion of a chandelier near the stairs gives some class to the venue.

The wait staff was very attentive during our visit, and the provision of wet towels on the table was a nice gesture.

The drink menu was amazing, with a vast variety of Japanese sake (which ranged from $6.50 to $13 for 100mL) and Japanese whisky (which ranged from $10 to $17 for a glass). They even have some different types of soda drinks that we have not seen in other Japanese restaurants. The drinks menu is really worth checking out.

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One thing to note is that the bottle of soy sauce provided on the table contained very thick soy sauce, which gave the food a more robust flavour. This was a nice touch.

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Assorted Sashimi $22.80

This contained salmon, tuna, kingfish and scallop sashimi. All the sashimi was fresh and sweet.

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Dragon Roll $10.80

A lightly seared eel inside out roll with cream cheese, cucumber and avocado. The rice was cooked perfectly, and the eel did not contain any fishy taste. A nice dish.

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Scallop and Ebi Fry $9.80

A lightly seared scallop inside out roll with ebi fry and cucumber. The ebi fry (prawns) were crispy, with very subtle scallop taste. The added sesame gave this dish a touch of depth in flavour. Very enjoyable.

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Eihire (dried sting ray fin) $7

Nicely flavoured but a little bit tough, this is the perfect dish to devour while downing a few beers or sakes. The mayo was a nice little touch.

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Grilled squid $12

The squid was soft and tender, and yet it had the nice smoky tarry taste from the grill. Another perfect dish to accompany some nice Japanese beer.

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Skewers

The yakitori skewers are their speciality and we tried a few different types. Apparently all the chicken used in the yakitori are from local farms which makes them fresh and tasty.

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The Mushroom ($4.50) had two mushrooms stuffed with chicken meat, and it had a nice Asian flavour going for it.

The Nankotsu (chicken cartilage) ($3.50) was nice and crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. Some chicken meat seem to have been intentionally left on the cartilage for customers to taste the chicken flavour.

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The Sasami (chicken breast) and Momo (dark chicken meat) ($3.50 each) provided a contrast in taste and texture. Greg liked the Momo as he found it tender and flavoursome, while Jono found it too peppery. However, Jono liked the Sasami as he could taste the natural real chicken flavour from it, but Greg found it a bit too dry.

We also had a number of other skewers.

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The Wagyu Beef ($7.50) was soft, tender and tasty. It was simply divine!

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The Butabara Pork ($3.50) had the right amount of fat, making it soft and tender, which contrasted well with the crunchiness of the spring onion. Furthermore, the saltiness of the pork, with the spiciness of the sauce, and the sweetness from the onion created an explosion of flavours in our mouths.

The Quail Egg ($3) had the smokiness of the grill and when mixed with the sauce, it just oozed through our mouth.

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The Rice Cake Maki ($3.50) divided our opinions. Greg enjoyed it, as it was full of flavour with the outside being crunchy and inside being soft. However, Jono was disappointed with this dish, as the flavour from the sauce was too strong, making it taste like some sticky fat filled with sauce.

Overall, we loved this place, and we will be back on a regular basis. The drinks are special, the food is great, and the vibe is friendly and relaxed. This is the perfect place to wind up after work and chat with your friends or colleagues.

 

Masu Izakaya on Urbanspoon

 

Masu Izakaya

Website: http://www.masuizakaya.com

Address: Shop B1, 35-39 Liverpool Street (corner of Liverpool and Dixon Street), Sydney

Phone: (02) 9261 3011

Opening hours: Mon to Fri and Sun 11:30am to 11:30pm, Sat 5pm til late

Accepts MasterCard and Visa only for bills over $30

Australia, Sydney, Sydney - CBD

Field House Restaurant & Bar, Novotel Central

As part of the NSW Food and Wine Festival which ran from February 7 to March 1 this year, Field House Restaurant & Bar offered a three course dinner with matching wines for $69. Jono and I decided to try this out.

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Arriving at Novotel Hotel at around 8:30pm, I was surprised by the appearance of the restaurant. It was in an open space, with white plastic tables and black chairs, and it looked more like a canteen than a restaurant inside a hotel. There was only one other diner at that time, and the staff were shocked that we were intending to dine there. When I told them that we had a booking, which I made a few days beforehand, they were not able to locate it.

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We sat down at our tables and were given the menus. I noticed that not all tables had both salt and pepper bottles on them – some tables had a bottle of each, while other tables only had one bottle of either.

The special menu the NSW Food and Wine Festival allowed us to choose a dish from a choice of three in each course. Each dish came with a specific matching wine.

When the meals were served, no one explained the food nor the wine to us. The food and the glasses of wine were just popped onto the table, with little to no explanation. The service from the staff was simply non-existent.

Now onto the food.

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Confit Bryon Bay pork belly, apple & ginger salad, chilli caramel
(2006 Blickling Estate Cabernet Sauvignon)

Jono ordered this choice for his entrée. He was disappointed with the skin of the pork belly, as it was neither crispy nor soft, but it was rather chewy. He described the meat as tough and chewy as well.   However, Jono mentioned the saving grace of this dish was the caramelised sauce which provided a good balance to the salad.

I had a taste of the pork belly and it was definitely undercooked.

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Nelson Bay king fish ceviche, jalapeno chilli, avocado and heirloom tomato
(2013 Audrey Wilkinson Semillon)

I ordered this dish, and noticed that the fish slices were too thick. I had a bite of the fish and it was not seasoned. Eating the fish with the jalapeno was a big mistake – the jalapeno was too hot and spicy, and it completely overpowered the delicate flavour of the king fish. Maybe the chef should have removed all the white parts from the jalapeno so the chilli taste would have been milder and then the flavour of the fish would have come through in this dish.

The wine matched was too light for the spicy flavour of the jalapeno.

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Pan roasted Coffs Harbour jewfish, smoked baby beets, pancetta & saffron butter
(2009 Poole’s Rock Chardonnay)

Jono ordered the fish. To him, this dish was very enjoyable, with the fish being well seasoned and all the other ingredients in this dish working well with each other.

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New England lamb rump, primavera potatoes, garden peas & mint puree
(2011 Audrey Wilkinson The Lake Shiraz)

I ordered the lamb for my main. The smokiness of the crust on the lamb, when removed, revealed succulent and juicy meat, and this was well matched with the sides and the heavy, fruity and tarry wine. This was a very nice dish.

Jono also tried part of my dish, and noticed that the sauce for the dish had a very heavy garlic flavour, which ironically, was more prominent than the chopped garlic on top of the potatoes. He also enjoyed how the strong, garlicky and spicy sauce matched the smoky flavour of the meat, yet providing a contrast to the soft texture of the meat.

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NSW cheese collection, sourdough bread and dried fruits
(2003 De Bortoli Botrytis Semillon)

Jono ordered the cheese plate for dessert. This was quite big serving for one, with a good variety of bread and a standard selection of cheese. The dessert wine was a bit too sweet for the cheese.

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Flourless baked Batlow apple tart, cinnamon ice cream and biscotti
(2010 Krinklewood Lucia Botrytis Semillon)

As the waitress was preparing the wine, I noticed that she poured the same wine as Jono into my glass as well. So I asked her whether both the wine for this dish was the same and she answered in the affirmative.

I did not want to make a scene, but the menu clearly stated that the matching wine for my dish was the Krinklewood Lucia, not the De Bortoli. It was very disappointing that the staff did not even know the menu.

The dish itself was also disappointing, the apple tart was too sour, while the biscotti was a bit stale. The honey flavour from the De Bortoli dessert flavour actually made the apple tart more sour.

Overall, given the level of service from the staff, and the inconsistencies in the food being presented, I would not come back to this restaurant any time soon. I expected more from a Novotel branded establishment.
Field House Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Field House Restaurant and Bar

Website: http://www.novotelsydneycentral.com.au/restaurant

Address: Novotel Sydney Central, 169-179 Thomas Street, Sydney

Phone: (02) 9281 6888

Opening hours: 6:30am to 10:00pm, Mon to Sun

Accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards

By Greg

Australia, Melbourne, Melbourne - East

Noir Restaurant, Richmond

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Noir Restaurant is a boutique restaurant situated in Richmond, Melbourne. The restaurant has a classical layout with wooden tables and dimly lit lighting creating a warm and cosy atmosphere.

The service we experienced from the restaurant could be improved. We were shown to our table when we walked in, but no waiter came to serve us until we waved one down. The waiter who served us with the complimentary bread did not ask us which type we preferred and just placed a random bread roll in our bread plates. The waiters’ explanation of the wines were also very rudimentary, and everything seem to be just memorised with no further insight.

We ordered the Tasting Menu, which was $80 per person, and there was an additional charge of $55 per person for matching wines.

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Amuse bouche

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This consisted of three vegetarian tarts, being cauliflower, beetroot and pumpkin. A nice start to the meal.

Entrees to share – Eye fillet of beef tartae, waldorf salad and gaufrette potatoes, Cold smoked pacific oysters and Hiramasa kingfish vichyssoise with samphire, sugar snaps and chive oil

(Matched with 11 Domaine Pierre deLaGrange Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Loire Valley, Fra)

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The beef tartae dish, with the beef and potatoes, as well as the apple in the waldorf salad, reminded me of the taste of burger and fries and apple pie. The kingfish dish was well presented with contrasting textures from the different elements in the dish. The pacific oysters were presented with smoke inside a glass lid which was very fancy but they weren’t as fresh as I expected when I tasted them. The wine selected matched well with the seafood dishes.

Alternative Entrée: Pumpkin cheesecake, Potato croquette on pumpkin puree and Foe gras on toast

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Jono: “I do not like raw food so I asked the kitchen to prepare something else in place of the entrée selection that they had. As soon as the waiter brought this alternative entrée plate to me, my eyes were on the foe gras. Foe gras is my number one favourite. So I tasted the foe gras first with the complimentary bread. It did not disappoint as it melted in my mouth. The pumpkin cheesecake, however, was too dense with cream, but the flavour was nice.”

Seared fillet of John Dory with summer vegetables, calamari, chorizo and buckwheat

(Matched with 10 Bella Ridge Estate Chenin Blanc, Swan Valley, WA)

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The smokiness from the chorizo (which tasted more like ham hock to me) added a depth of complexity and flavour to the fish, and this matched well with the smokiness from the wine. A very enjoyable dish.

Hendricks gin and tonic sorbet, cucumber and dried botanicals

(Matched with Hendricks splash)

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This was a good palate cleanser, the cucumber providing freshness and the extra alcohol providing the acidity required to cleanse the tastes from the mouth.

Crisp breast of duck with green figs, beetroot and walnuts

(Matched with 12 Vincent Girardin Pinot Noir ‘Bourgogne Cuvee Saint-Vincent’, Burgandy, Fra)

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The duck was nicely cooked, with crispy skin and juicy meat. However, the wine seem to be a little too heavy for this dish, so a more delicate pinot may have been a better match.

Rump of Rangers Valley beef, roast capsicum puree and grains of paradise

(Matched with 11 Ngeringa Syrah, Adelaide Hills, SA)

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The beef was cooked rare, and was presented with a calamari ring (which was not what I had in mind to be “grains of paradise”). It was tender and well flavoured, and the peppery taste of the wine complimented the beef well.

Cremeux d’Anjou with strawberries, blueberries, honeycomb and berry and basil sorbet

(Matched with 11 Petit Guiraud, Sauternes, Fra)

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The dessert was presented nicely, the sweetness of the pear and honeycomb balanced well the sourness from the berries. The dessert went down a treat with the dessert. A nice ending to the tasting menu.

Overall, this was an enjoyable experience, with quality food and nice wines. The only let down to the experience was the service we received.

Noir on Urbanspoon

Noir Restaurant

Website: www.noirrestaurant.com.au

Address: 175 Swan Street, Richmond

Phone: (03) 9428 3585

Opening hours: Lunch & Dinner, Tuesday to Sunday

Accepts Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards

By Greg