Sunday, 29 March 2015

Menya Mappen and Washoku Lovers Autumn special for Members

The love affair for Japanese cuisine has long been established in Sydney. Although there are so many new restaurants opening up on the ever revolving dining scene, there are many places that are firmly rooted and have a large following. Whether you love sushi and sashimi, ramen, BBQ, Izakaya, udon noodle bars or generally a bit of everything when it comes to Japanese, it’s all catered for in Sydney.  

A long time favourite of mine is Mappen (meaning one more time) and I’ve been there plenty!  It’s a self service style udon and soba noodle bar and it’s cheap, cheerful and delicious! You can read my previous review here.

Being self service also means the line moves fast, efficiently and diners tend to not linger to long at the end (freeing up valuable dining space for diners coming through the lines). Grab a drink, a tray, ask for the noodles/soup of your choice and then walk along the line to choose your toppings. There is something comforting about udon, My usual go to dish is the Bukkake Ontama Mentaiko which is udon in a soy and dashi sauce with chilli cod roe butter and an unbelievably soft half cooked egg. The chewiness of thick, ropey udon noodles swimming in a light but tasty broth topped with gooey egg is something special topping it off with a variety of fried goodies is even better. Everything from tempura prawns and vegetables to takoyaki balls and crab sticks. There are a few salad options like potato salad, corn or seaweed if you wish, but it’s the free tempura flakes and negi (shallots) that you can spoon on at the end that gets me EVERY…SINGLE….TIME!

So where was I earlier in the week? Mappen of course! There were three of us dining this evening and we are here to taste the new Washoku Lovers Autumn special consisting of a selection of small bowls and a drink. It’s specifically aimed at Washoku Lover members (and more on this shortly). This special includes a mini Kake Udon, mini Ontama Bukkake soba, mini Japanese curry bowl, mini Salad and original drink (black sesame milk). A variety of dishes to sample!

We arrive just before the main rush and we are lucky to get a table and seat before we get our food (special privilege for the evening). Normal etiquette is to take a table/seat after you have your food…regardless!

The Kake udon is everything I was expecting. A clean, light sauce with chewy udon noodles. Simplicity at it’s finest.

The Ontama Bukkake soba bowl is full of umami flavours and pure comfort. The gooey, oozing egg broken through the soba noodles offers a unique texture to the noodles. The light dashi style broth is so flavourful I could drink this on its own and be satisfied. That’s always a good sign when the broth is exceptional. I may have put a couple of big spoons of negi and tempura flakes on top.

The salad is a simple leafy salad that is refreshing and topped with a Japanese style dressing (which in itself is awesome) but in all honesty I would rather focus on the other dishes.

The Japanese curry bowl is a thick style curry sauce. It’s served atop a small bowl of rice and some red capsicum. It’s tasty but I think I would have enjoyed this more if I wasn’t so full on noodles. I will say I failed to identify the meat. I want to say beef but I could be wrong!

It’s the first time I’ve had a black sesame milk drink before and although on the sweeter side for my palate the black sesame taste shines through.

Overall this is a great deal. Four mini dishes and a drink for $9.90. You can’t go wrong. But remember you have to be a member to enjoy this.

So what’s this all about?
Recently, the Washoku Lovers website was launched. Washoku is about balance and harmony and skills, knowledge and traditions in relation to Japanese cuisine and respecting the seasons and natural resources. This website brings together a carefully selected list of restaurants and chefs in Sydney who are Washoku. 

How do I become a member?  
Here’s Washoku Lover's website.

It’s simple and free to become a member. Benefits while dining at their partner restaurants include free dessert or a drink and the team are constantly adding to the benefits while the community grows. Not only does Washoku Lovers include Mappen, the community also includes restaurants such as Azuma, Busshari, Chanoma, Oiden, Osan, Raita noda Chef’s Kitchen and Yebisu to name a few.

Currently Washoku Loves are also running a competition over the next three months and prizes total $3000 including sake sets and sake, karate lessons, mystery dinners and Japanese beauty products. So sign up to become a member and join the Washoku community today and be in the running for some great prizes.

*Roofood dined as an invited guest at Mappen, Washoku Lovers and SD Marketing. Roofood’s opinions and reviews are solely her own.

Menya Mappen on Urbanspoon

Friday, 20 March 2015

Taste of Sydney 2015

The Taste of Sydney has come and gone for another year. Held in Centennial Park  this three day, three night  food and wine event showcases some of Sydney's top fine dining and what's hot in the restaurant scene.  Chef's get to show their stuff!  The Taste Festival is a global food and wine event including cities such as London, Dubai, Toronto, Capetown, Auckland and Paris to name but just a few.

In Sydney, March is the usual month when the weather can be glorious (mostly!). We arrive right on gates opening and headed in.  The day is sunny and bright (unlike last year when there was thunderstorms and rain for most of the afternoon).  See I did say mostly!

We are armed with Crowns (our currency for the Taste of Sydney which is 1 Crown = $1) and our menu booklet and off we go.  This year they have also brought back the Icon Dish, which is the signature dish for the restaurant, along with a few other dishes.  These tend to be alot more pricier than other offerings.  For maximum tastings we decide (between three of us) that we would share all the dishes in order to spread the tasting love. 

First stop is 4Fourteen

Easy choice when the first thing you see when you enter is pig on a spit. Golden perfection and the aroma wafting my way is mouthwatering.

We go with Smoked potato ham hock and cheddar croquettes with mustard cream.

Five small crunchy balls of smokey croquettes served in a bowl topped with a squirt of mustard cream.  Little mouthfuls of carby goodness. The smokiness isn't over powering and they are quite rich but delicious.  A good start....

A restaurant that has been on my radar for some time is Biota Dining in Bowral. I hope to visit very soon.  I had my eye on the menu leading up to the weekend and thought I'd go with the dipped lamb caramel buns, however after seeing a photo of the taramasalata and charcoal cracker I immediately changed my mind.

Smoked taramasalata with pickled lettuce and charcoal cracker.

I was expecting the charcoal cracker to be just that 'charcoal' in flavour....but it was mild and crunchy and very pleasing on the palate.  The smokiness of the taramasalata was lovely with a pleasant fishy hint and the pearls of roe popped in the mouth.  A light and lovely dish.

One of my friends J chose the next dish.  Otto has been a long time favourite in Sydney for many people.  I know that I have arranged many corporate lunches and dinners here and have been lucky to dine there myself (a few years ago before my blogging days).

Orecchiette Bolognese - ear shaped pasta, wagy beef, pork veal, sangiovese ragu

This little bowl of pasta and sauce packed a real punch!  Rich and deeply flavourful the meaty sauce was wonderful.  The orecchiete was al dente and offered a good chew to it.  This was J's dish of the day.

J's second choice was the purple gnocchi from Popolo.

Purple Potato Gnocchi - mixed mushrooms, chilli pinenuts and salted dried ricotta

I'm not a big fan of gnocchi as I find it far to stodgy for my belly, however the mushrooms and the generous scattering of pine nuts were a great accompaniment to it.  I didn't take much notice of the salted dried ricotta unfortunately.  I didn't get much of a taste of it.
All three of us knew exactly what dish to get at Porteno.

The Icon Dish - BBQ Porchetta - wth chilli, fennel, silverbeet and truffle pecorino

Next door to Porteno was Jack's Bar which offered a little sanctuary amongst the festival.  A nice little spot to eat our pork.  So how was it.  Juicy, tender, fatty pieces of rolled pork with salty, crunchy crackling.  The silverbeet and truffle percorino was good and tart enough to cut through the fattiness of the delicious pork.  A winner dish!

After some sampling and testings from the many exhibitors scattered throughout the event we choose another meaty dish.

Over at the Cut Bar & Grill we go with the Slow Braised Szechuan Beef Shortrib with Tamarind BBQ sauce

Tender beef shortribs with a good layer of fat that kept the meat soft and moist and tasty but they were on the sweeter side and although I enjoyed the dish, I think I as just getting a little to full to eat more meat.

Our final savoury dish was on the lighter side.  A what better way to go out. Sake Restaurant was offering Steamed Prawn Dumplings with Spicy Ponzu

These were surprisingly good.  Prawn mousse style dumplings wrapped in soft noodles, steamed and then topped with spicy ponzu.  I really enjoyed this dish.
The girls desserted on gelato (sorry no pics and can't even remember which gelato *fail*) but I went back to grab the popsicle from 4Fourteen (the only restaurant that I sampled two things from).
White Chocolate & Caramel popsicle with dark chocolate crumbs

A lovely little cooling treat to finish off the afternoon....but really it was more of an excuse to pop over and meet Colin Fassnidge.  A little bit star struck but he is lovely (and good looking! :))
Electrolux was the major sponsor for 2015 and other than tasting and sipping samples of wonderful dishes and beverages you can also sign up for various demonstrations which include Victorinox Chefs Skillery, where chefs will demonstrate various kitchen skills and answering questions. 

There is the Lurpak Cookery School  where you can learn to cook a dish in 30 minutes, which includes using Lurpak butter in the dish.

The Wine Society also offered wine and food pairing along with some great wine offers.

We didn't partake in any of these sessions this year as we focused more on the eating and sampling.  Next year I might opt to take public transport in order to sample some wines, beer and cider.

We sat in shade soaking up the atmosphere sipping on a Sydney Cider.  Perfect day for a crisp, cold one.

One stall that grabbed my attention was Jammin Jerk and I can understand why there were so many people milling about. 

The jerk paste is either mild or hot and both are definitely on the 'hotter' side...I should have tried the mild one first.  What I loved about this product is the well balanced flavours.  It doesn't get all its heat from the chilli, it's the laying of spices that make this pastes depth of flavour.  It's exciting to the palate!

We did spend some time wandering around the stalls sampling products from artisan breads, wines, olives and cheese. Very enjoyable to sample lots of new products.


Oz Harvest were there too.  I have been a long time supporter and follower of Oz Harvest and recently have become a volunteer myself.  I will be doing my first volunteer shift soon (but more on that another time).  Oz Harvest is a fantastic charity focusing on food rescue and passing on to charities and services to feed those in need.