Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ume Japanese Restaurant and Ume Burger Pop-Up, Surry Hills

Three of my most memorable dishes from when I was a kid were tempura, sukiyaki and kamameshi crab rice. From the early age of 8 years old, I've already fallen in love with Japanese cuisine. Just as wine tastes better with age, so is my obsession with Japanese food. We are so lucky that we have an abundance of Japanese restaurants in Sydney that offers both traditional and modern takes of this cuisine.

Ume Japanese Restaurant in Surry Hills is a one hat (awarded by Sydney Morning Herald) Japanese restaurant that does contemporary take on the classics with a seasonal approach. It is a gem tucked away in the quiet part of Bourke Street. The space is a mixture of contemporary Izakaya and semi-fine dining. When someone like an ex-Tetsuya's chef like Kerby Craig owns and runs a joint like this, you can expect slam dunkin' dishes. So within a week, I visited them twice for two reasons: 1. To try their a la carte dishes; 2. To try out their burger pop-up that's happening for the first time ever (more on that later).

The restaurant
Yuzu soda
For starters, I ordered a yuzu soda ($5.50). It was so refreshing with its sweet and citrusy flavours. 
Shio koji kara-age
The shio koji kara-age ($16) is not the most attractive out there but definitely one of the tastiest! It had light crisped coating with meat that's flavoursome that had hints of sweetness and ginger. I also loved the housemade wasabi mayo that came with them!
Seared hokkaido scallops
One of the best dishes I've had in any restaurant is their seared Hokkaido scallops ($20). The perfectly seared scallops together with koikuchi shoyu, konbu brown butter and blood limes was sensational. I enjoyed the tangy, buttery and notes of citrus flavours.
Yaki nasu
If you like smoky eggplant dishes, then the yaki nasu ($19) is for you! Besides its bold smokiness it had a nice delicate texture. The wari shoyu combined with the grated ginger compliments the charcoal grilled eggplant well and it helps cut through the bold smoky flavour of the dish.

I was in awe of their kakuni at first sight and bite! It was beautifully constructed braised pork belly dish and the taste was smack bang full of umami! It had depth with flavours containing the perfect marriage of sweet and salty. It was also so tender that it melts in your mouth.
Pork dumplings
The pork dumplings ($16) were like a crossover of siumai and gyoza (minus the seared part). It had a nice delicate dumpling wrap and the actual meat filling was flavoursome with silky texture. The rice vinegar dressing was a nice touch to cut through the rich meaty flavour of the pork filling.
Mango dessert
The dainty mango dessert ($16) was an awesome way to end our meal. It was refreshing and I especially loved the combination of mango tofu, frozen green tea and mochi!

The Ume burger pop-up

Everyone knows my obsession with burgers! My radar tries its best to not miss upcoming burger joints and pop-ups. Chef Kerby adds his take on burgers into Sydney's #BurgerTown scene! Burgers inspired by the likes of renowned MOS burger and Freshness burger of Japan. At 1pm on a Sunday afternoon, a long queue formed outside Ume restaurant. The place was packed with burger lovers!  

The menu was small and not complicated, which makes choosing what to order very easy.
Chips with kombu salt

The chips with kombu salt ($4) were flawless. The outside of the chips was crisped whilst the inside was fluffy. The konbu salt was the perfect seasoning to go with this.
Ume burger

The Ume burger (which is his take on a cheeseburger - $14) straight away made the burger nerd in me throw fist pumps in the air! It was absolutely delicious and yes, it was full of umami (take note that I hardly use this flavour term in my posts). It was a cheeseburger on a league of its own. It had wagyu patty (the actual wagyu beef patty is covered under that mince sauce), wagyu mince sauce, melted cheese, mayo, tomato, onion and mustard in a soft sweet milk bun (sourced from a Japanese bakery). The wagyu patty was juicy and packed with flavour. The wagyu mince sauce was like a Bolognese sauce but more sweet, which gave the burger extra character. The melted cheese, creamy sweet mayo, zingy mustard and crisp bite from the onions gave the burger familiar classic cheeseburger flavours. The tomato gave a nice balance to the whole burger.
Tonkatsu burger

The tonkatsu burger ($14) was also a winner! The menchi kurobuta pork katsu patty was sensational with its crunchy coating and soft silky flavoursome filling. The sweet bbq-like sweet tonkatsu sauce and cabbage complimented the katsu patty well. This is one pork burger that I’ve come to love!

Kerby Craig and his team’s approach to modern Japanese cuisine is best described as innovative and sophisticated. The flavours are not complicated but the combination works well. The burgers on the other hand are definitely amongst the best in Sydney and I hope that the Ume burgers Sunday service continues. The service is great and the food is outstanding! 

Ume Restaurant
478 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW

Opening hours:
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday 6pm to 10pm
Lunch Friday to Saturday 12pm to 3pm

Ume Burger (located at Ume Restaurant)
Check Ume Restaurant and Ume Burger’s Instagram account for updates and pop-ups.

Ume Burger Instagram:
Ume Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Work In Progress @ Patrick Friesen, Sydney

The names Patrick Friesen and Papi Chulo Manly is really all I need for this introduction. But for those who don't know Chef Patrick, he is the other half (along with co-head chef Christopher Hogarth) behind  the successful smokehouse and grill Merivale joint, Papi Chulo. A place where magical meat-ups happen.

As part of "March into Merivale" this year, Patrick takes over the Work in Progress bar with his Fried Chicken and Noodle pop-up bar. It is inspired by his passion for Asian cuisine and his late supper shenanigans with other chefs. Work In Progress is a hipster meets pop-art themed small bar. As seen on his Instagram account over the last few months, he's been perfecting the art of fried chicken. After they announced Patrick's pop-up bar, all those instagram posts made sense. So being the sensible people that we are, Chocolatesuze, Mista iFat and I planned a lunch meet-up at Work In Progress. Well, as we would normally say "Because fried chicken yo!" Here's what went down:

The Noodles
Supreme wonton
The supreme wonton mein ($16) was delicious and nostalgic! It took me back to my trips to Hong Kong. It consists of egg noodles, morsels of pork & prawn wonton, and supreme broth. The egg noodles was nice and springy while the pork and prawn wonton was as legit as it gets. The broth tasted like a chicken blend but with some garlic punch.
Sichuan duck and tofu lo mein

Then there's the Sichuan duck and tofu lo mein ($16). It was a scrumptious egg noodle dish with a Sichuan-style sauce, duck and tofu. I would've liked a little bit more duck but the sauce was off the hook! It was bold with sweet, chilli and garlicky flavours.

The Fried Chicken
Half and half of ginger ninja fried chicken and chilli nut fried chicken

We literally ate ALL the fried chicken! First up was a halfies ($16) of ginger ninja and the chilli nuts fried chicken. It came with nuoc cham sauce and some Korean banchan-type sides: pickled daikon, kimchi and cucumber pieces
Ginger ninja

The ginger ninja straight up had an amazing sexy rippled crunchy coating! The meat was juicy and flavoursome from the ginger-based marination. It was quite similar to Red Pepper's and Sparrow's Mill's original Korean Fried Chicken. Basically, it was awesome!
Chilli nuts
The chilli nuts fried chicken was also delicious. It was coated in a beautiful sticky sweet and chilli sauce. It was also topped with nuts and sesame seeds.
Fly high
Then Patrick nicely gave us a complimentary plate of the fly high ($16) Pnomh Penh fried wings. It's a Cambodian inspired fried chicken dish with an addictive lime white pepper sauce. The chicken's batter was lighter with garlicky, salt and pepper flavours. The lime pepper sauce gives the fried chicken a nice balance by cutting through the richness of the chicken.

Between the awesome hip-hop playlist, the chill out vibe and authentic scrumptious food, there is no doubt that Patrick’s pop-up rocks! Check it out before March ends. I'm definitely going back for more!

Work In Progress
50 King Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Kitchen Hours:
Monday to Friday 12pm to 3pm, then 6pm to 10pm

Bar hours: 12pm till late

Work in Progress on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dachshund Coffee, Hunters Hill

My café adventure continues and it recently took me to the North Shore suburb of Hunters Hill. A few months back, I started following on Instagram a new-ish joint in this area called Dachshund Coffee. I've wanted to visit them ever since seeing all the coffee and mouthwatering dishes they've posted on social media. They have dubbed themselves the "Hounds of Hunters Hill" and hence why they decided to use the beautiful breed "Dachshund" and its name as their character hound mascot to represent their café. Owners Alex, Matt and Rob's café background includes the likes of Anvil Coffee, Pablo & Rusty and The Reformatory Caffeine Lab. Nothing but great things are expected from the trio! I can confirm that awesomeness as I have experienced it first hand at Dachshund.

Pastry cabinet

So upon arriving just around 10 minutes after their opening time on a Sunday, the place was already crowded. That's definitely a good sign! But in spite being busy, they still managed to cater to their clients well. The place had a very welcoming vibe with an action-packed open kitchen and industrial fit out. They also have a white sleek Synesso espresso machine to pump out amazing coffee. Speaking about coffee, they source their beans from a boutique roaster called Fat Poppy Coffee. For tea lovers, they have Tea Craft on offer. Goodies like praline pistachio caramel slices, cupcakes and various pastries are also available. The place is very family-friendly that they even provide water bowls for our furry family members. Parking is convenient and to add to the convenience, there is a bus stop right in front of the shop. 
Flat white

Caffe latte

We started with some caffe latte ($3.50) and flat white ($3.50) with a Fat Poppy espresso blend of Brazilian and Ethiopian coffee. The blend was slammin’ with a medium to full body. Sweet notes of toffee and milk chocolate easily pierced through the nice textured milk (milk is sourced from a farm in Picton). I loved every sip of it!
Batch filter brew for two
I also got to try a batch filter brew ($4 per serve) of Kenya Kahete, which was also roasted by Fat Poppy. It was so fruity with strong notes of blackcurrant and it was so light.
Kumara hotcakes with quinoa salad

The first dish we tried was the Kumara hotcakes ($19). It’s sweet potato patties with goat’s feta, kale, tomato, quinoa salad, a perfect poached egg and chipotle aioli. The hotcakes themselves had a nice caramelised crust surface and delicious yam-like innards. The nutty kale and quinoa salad dressed with red wine vinaigrette was perfect accompaniment to the hotcakes. The chipotle aioli added a touch of smokiness to the dish. 
One of the most epic breakfast dishes I’ve had in my life is their Frenchie ($16.50 available weekends only). Its’ their take on the classic brioche French toast but with a twist. It also had double smoked bacon, caramelized banana, and house maple syrup. The brioche French toast itself was almost like a fluffy buttery pancake. The super smoky crispy bacon and maple syrup was a slam-dunk combo with the brioche. The caramelised banana added a nice soft texture and sweetness to the dish. It’s the type of dish that would make one say “Hot damn this is fantastic!”

Hunters Hill is so lucky to have a local café like Dachshund around. Besides the coffee and food being amazing, they are also so customer focused that they cater to families with kids and dogs. The availability of high chairs, kiddie benches (complete with drawing paper and pencils) and canine water bowls says it all. So on your next visit to Hunters Hill: “Come, Sit, Stay” at Dachshund for an excellent café experience.

Ramen Raff was invited by Dachshund Coffee as a guest.

Dachshund Coffee
64 Gladesville Road
Hunters Hill NSW
Phone: (02) 9879 4619

Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 6:30 am to 4:00 pm
Sat 7:00 am to 4:00 pm
Sun 8:00 am to 3:00 pm

Dachshund Coffee on Urbanspoon