Monday, 20 July 2015

Osaka Bar @ Potts Point - Osaka Street Food

With my ever developing curiosity of Japanese cuisine and more about the regional eats rather than just on a whole I was excited to be invited to dine at Osaka Bar, a Japanese casual dining spot in Potts Point that is focused on Osaka street food (or drinking food if you will).

The funny and effervescent Chef Kazu is all too happy to greet me with a big smile and welcome.   You can tell straight away that he is passionate about what he does and his roots.   Only opened for two months now, Kazu and his delightful wife who own Osaka has become a hot spot for beer, sake and street food, Osakan style.


We start the evening with a Suntory Premium Malt beer on tap.  This is a floral, malty beer and it's pleasingly refreshing.  I am not a big beer drinker (unless when I'm travelling for some reason) and I liked this alot. 
After introductions and drinks served, we receive a 'small' serve of takoyaki. Takoyaki is probably the most well known of Japanese street foods and it also was 'invented' in Osaka.  They are popping up at festivals and markets all over Sydney, with a cult like following. 
Who doesn't love balls?  These were super flavourful with a decent piece of octopus inside each ball, unfortunately they were a little on the softer side and fell apart when you tried to pick them up on the skewers, so a fork or spoon was found...that didn't detract from the taste!!!! (this could have been because we didn't dig in straight away!)
Beer was good, however, it didn't take long to start tasting some sake.  We also just happened to be here on a night that the Ippin sake tasting was taking place - well planned!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have only just recently discovered that I like a particular brand of sake.  I'm still not a full convert but I think my taste buds are warming up to the idea.  Sato, our sake sommelier, is a family member of the founders of Yoshikubo Sake Brewery Co who brews Ippin.  The family have been operating this brewery for 11 generations since 1790. 
Here we have the Ippin Jyunmai (left), an everyday sake or what I like to call a 'quaffing' sake and the Jyunmai Daiginjo (right), a more premium sake. I prefer my sake cold.

The Junmai is served cold (for me) and is crisp and dry. Mr friend A goes with warm.

I can assure you that cold sake pairs well with our next dish.  Grilled Oysters with Yuzu soy sauce and garlic butter.  Three plump oysters sit atop a mound of rock salt, still warm from the grill.  The citrus of the yuzu and the oiliness of the butter are sublime and the hints of parsley make these oysters a perfect bite.

Next sake is the premium Jyunmai Daiginjo and this is incredibly smooth on the palate.  This is a fav.
More dishes followed on.  The kitchen was more than happy to bring out a selection of their menu and surprise us.  Took the task out of my hard as there are just to many dishes to sample! 

Beef tataki - seared wagyu, soy based wasabi sauce (forest floor garnish - blueberry strawberry).  Visually colourful dish, the thin slices of slightly seared rare wagyu is doused in a subtle hint of wasabi sauce with fresh blueberries and strawberries makes for a great snacking dish.  Drinking food doesn't all have to be about deep fried and grease!

Chef Kazu's signature dish is a beautiful looking Grilled Duck confit - 65 degree duck breast grilled with blueberry miso sauce and honey mustard. 

I loved this dish.  The duck breast was perfectly pink with crispy rendered skin and the blueberry miso sauce blew me away.  I think I raved about it all night.
Another well known street food is Okonomiyaki - which is a Japanese pancake mixed with pork, squid and prawn.  Osaka Bar's version is fabulous.  Full of protein and super crispy this is a good one!

We have now moved on to teapots with the Dassai Junmai Daiginjo , which is a top premium sake, where the grain of rice is polished to 50% of its size, giving a sweeter more refined taste.  Definitely getting the feel of this drinking street food style of dining!
One particular speciality of Osaka is Kushi Katsu.  Katsu meaning deep fried.  Kushi meaning skewers.  There is a variety of panko crumbed skewers you can choose from and priced per skewer you can pick and choose as many (or as little) as you like. We end up with a selection of five, served with a house secret sauce.  The sauce is so good and with a great amount of prompting, conjoling and begging, Chef Kazu would not divulge his secrete.

From right clockwise we have beef rump, camembert, zuchinni, potato croquette and beef mince cutlet.  The zucchini , potato and beef mince cutlet are the best.

My dining pal A, spies the tomato and tofu salad - with sliced fresh tomato, lettuce and wasabi dressing with silken tofu (which we thought tasted liked mashed potato salad (unless that was substituted?).

Lastly, I ordered a serve of the Dote Kushi - slow cooked beef tendon with a sweet miso based broth.  I love beef tendon and when prepared and braised well, super tender and gelatinous and tasty.  These were great.  The miso style sauce is sweet enough to cut through the richness of the tendon.

We have admired the bar full of a variety of bottles with labels of unidentified liqueur and are advised that they are Japanese whiskey and Shochu, a distilled beverage most commonly distilled from barley, rice and sometimes sweet potatoes.  It has a high alcohol content. 

I am told that the large bottle is a rare Aka Kirishima (even rare to find in Japan) distilled from sweet potatoes.  At $230 a bottle I can understand the hype about it.  There is also a Aka Enma (wheat based) shochu. I was most surprised when Chef Kazu so generously poured a glass each for us to sip, along with a sample of the Aka Enma. 

These blow my head off!  These are smokey and reminiscent of whiskey, very strong.  I do believe we may have ended the night on a Suntory Whiskey too.

Thanks Yuri for joining us and sharing many laughs and thank you to the generous hospitality of Kazu and his lovely wife.  I'm looking forward to coming back soon for more beer, sake and delicious snacking.

Perfect for a date night, a group of friends on a night out or...... well you don't really need an excuse.

*Roofood dined as a guest of Osaka Bar and SD Marketing - thank you for your generous hospitality!  All opinions are my own.

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Friday, 17 July 2015

Cuckoo Callay @ Newtown

After months and months of Cuckoo Callay at Newtown high on my list I finally brunch there this past weekend.  I also got to meet (finally) the delightful Mel (ex food blogger from The Adventures of Miss Piggy).
Our table is in the corner down the back of the cafe, it's cosy and snug sitting next to other diners.  If you are wanting privacy or space, this is not the place for you.
Mel starts with a pot of tea.  I love the tea pot

The Aeropress is a process that allows the barista to 'dictate the terms of the extraction'.  Here, at Cuckoo Callay they brew for one minute before pressing it, yielding rich flavour with lower acidity and no bitterness. (Their words).

this was fruity and less acidic, however I think I need milk in my caffeine, but if you like experimenting and/ or changing your caffeine hit up. This is good.
I always have food envy.  I look around at what other people are eating, decide on a dish, look at the menu and inevitably change my mind and then wish I had gone with my first option.  Here I did look around and changed my mind a few times but didn't have food envy....I was delighted with my dish.
#Hashtag, Boom, Bam!* (yes it's that on the menu!), Jerusalem artichoke, chat potato and spanish onion has served with roast beet puree, parsnip cream 63 degree poached egg and either bacon or haloumi.  I went with haloumi.

This was GOOD. The saltiness (and squeekiness) of the halmoui was perfect with the gentle flavour of the Jerusalem artichoke (and I think this is the first time that I have tasted it). The beet puree is earthy and slightly sweet.  Can never go wrong with a runny yolk soft egg. Crackin' dish.

Mel decided on the Porked* which crispy pork, chargrilled broccolini, manchego and mustard sauce and a 63° egg on sourdough

Okay maybe a small amount of food envy, but she was kind enough for me to have a taste (and vice versa). 
This was a lovely brunch and I am keen to come back for more.  It does get busy and expect to have to wait for a table...but it's worth it.
I always have an excuse to eat cake! Words to live by....
Cheekiness - wise words from Buddha.


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Monday, 13 July 2015

Express Lunch @ Contrabando

When you have a team lunch to celebrate a team members promotion and they mention a lunch spot that is a great place for a quick lunch with a good deal I had to google it.  I hadn't seen alot of reviews on nor heard much about Contrabando, so I was excited about going.
Turns out it's where the Noble House used to be - look for the upside down sign out the front.  It's unassuming and full of mystery as you head downstairs into a moody lit room, with local artwork hanging on the walls.  It's obviously had a make over (or make under as it's more grungy and graffettied than Noble House was)  Cheeky and playful.
The menu looks great, with flourishes of Southern Californian, Mexican and Latin American influences.  There are a few dishes that are enticing but we are all here for the express lunch which is on Monday and Thursday.  Four tapas size dishes and a beverage (beer, wine or soft drink) for $20, that's a real bargain in the city!
The beverage choice is either a Salvados on tap or a Vaquera, peruvian Apple Cider.  I go with the cider and it's cold and light and fruity.
When the corn arrives we all dive onto it.  There is something about corn when cheese, chipotle and lime are involved. 
The mazorca are chargrilled, topped with queso freso, lime and a chipotle mayo with a hint of heat.  They are delicious!

Everyone is taco crazy these days and this crispy fish taco, with tomatillo salsa verde and pico de gallo is a tasty little number on super soft tortillas.  I could be in Baja right now!

The third dish was probably my least favourite.  The choripan, which is essentially a chorizo hot dog comes with habanero mustard and salsa criola.  It was nice, just not a favouite.  The mini chorizo sausage had a nice smoky flavour with a kick of chilli.

We finish the meal with the wagyu beef quesedilla.  This is a big hit.  The rich flavour of the beef is tasty and topped with a salsa verde, the crispy tortilla sandwiches it all together.

The staff are fun and friendly and it's a great place to have a quick lunch at.  As it is in the CBD it is a suits and corporates type of lunch spot, but it's a great spot!
I know I'll be back...perhaps next time I'll indulge in a $10 cocktail.

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Monday, 6 July 2015

Travel Photo of the Month - July 2015

It's time to resurrect the Travel Photo of the Month. A monthly selection of my favourite photos from travelling the globe.  Some are many years old converted from film to digital and are still amongst my favourites.

In light of what is going on in Greece at the moment, I have reflected back on my 5 weeks of travelling the Cyclades Isles ack in 2000 (just before moving to Ireland).  We had quite the adventure! It may not have started off as planned (I have since learnt to read 24 hour time correctly!) and the entire trip continued to be full of misadventure, disaster, injuries, stupidity, some begging for food, sickness amongst alot of partying and fun.  I can only look back on these days and think 'how the hell did we survive that trip?'  We really did get up to some mischief.

Here were were exploring a tiny fishing village in Paros and loved all the fishing nets nestled around an old rustic dock.  The smell of briny fish and bait and sea salt tinged air with the warmth of the sun was blisful, while sitting back and sipping on a cold beer and a plate of BBQ octopus, watching the fisherman bring in their catch of the day.

Perfect timing.