Friday, August 12, 2011

Wagaya, Fortitude Valley, Qld

At last, an Izakaya style Japanese restaurant has opened up in Brisbane! Wagaya is owned and operated by the same owners (Yes Food Group) as Wagaya in Sydney. Seeing I had dined at Wagaya, Sydney before, I was expecting some pretty good food here  in Brisbane too! Wagaya utilises a unique, touch-screen ordering system at each table, which allow its customers to order food at their own pace and add to their order as often as they wished. This was something new for Brisbane and definitely a great change!

Wagaya offers over 300 different types of dishes, we really had a hard time choosing what to order as there was so much we wanted to try!

Some mocktails to start us off. The blue one was called Sapphire and the lovely pink one was Ruby. Some of the ingredients in those pretty mocktails included guava, orange juice, lemon, peach, tonic water, calpis, grapefruit juice and pineapple juice. Everything was just so refreshing.
Sapphire (L), Ruby (R)

I really enjoyed the scampi sushi at Sushi Hotaru while in Sydney and finally, there's a place with scampi sushi in Brisbane!! I was so excited to see this on the menu. The scampi were good, but lacked sweetness of fresh scampi (I think these were frozen, and thawed). But at $7.50 for two pieces, I was pretty happy.
Scampi Sushi

 Salmon Chazuke - this was a rice dish topped with salmon in a light, green tea soup broth. I couldn't really taste the green tea, but it was flavoursome and was a good alternative to normal steamed rice.
Salmon Chazuke

Atsuage Mentai cheese. Grilled deep fried tofu topped with mentai (cod roe) and cheese. This was a pretty basic dish, except the tofu was deep fried till slightly crispy and wasn't too oily.
Atsuage Mentai Cheese

Chicken nanban & tartar sauce. Deep fried chicken dressed with sweet vinegar topped with tartar sauce. Apparently this is a local dish from the Miyazaki prefecture in Japan. The chicken was beautifully fried! The chicken was so crispy and tender. The tartar sauce was a nice match with the chicken. Oiishii!
Chicken Nanban & Tartar Sauce

 Scallop and garlic fried rice. There were pieces of diced and grilled scallops within the fried rice. I quite enjoyed this as the rice was light and fluffy and not oily at all.
Scallop and Garlic Fried Rice

Wafu pizza. This was on the menu as a recommended dish, consisting of tender pieces of chicken, Korean rice cakes, mushrooms and what tasted the sauce used on takoyaki. It would have been easier to eat if the pizza base was a little bit thicker, but this was tasty nevertheless.
Wafu Pizza

Grilled scallop with butter. One serve of this dish contains four plump, tender pieces of scallops with their roe, paired with sautéed mushrooms. It was buttery and tasty. So good.
Grilled Scallop with Butter

Grilled ox tongue. This was tender and nicely marinated and surprisingly a lot better than the grilled ox tongue at Sydney's Wagaya. Happy :)
Grilled Ox Tongue

Soft-shell crab with agedashi tofu. The soft-shell crab was nicely cooked, crispy and fresh without too much batter. Agedashi tofu came with a nice soy sauce too.
Soft-shell Crab with Agedashi Tofu

Finally, time for dessert! We ordered a mixed dessert plate, which my friend was eyeing off the menu before we even finished our meal, haha! The plate consisted of green tea cheese cake, black sesame ice cream and red bean daifuku. The green tea cheese cake was surprisingly good! It was not too sweet and definitely had a nice green tea flavour. Though the standout was probably the black sesame ice-cream, which wasn't too sweet and had a fragrant black sesame smell and taste! The daifuku was not nice and chewy which was a bit of a letdown. The dessert plate was good overall though.
Mixed Dessert Plate

Wagaya also has some large function rooms which cater for up to 20 people. This would make a great place for get-togethers and enjoy some good food in a nice atmosphere!

We ended up spending around $30 per person, which was pretty good value. There are still many other dishes I'd like to try and next time I will probably return and give their sushi and sashimi a try!

Thanks to Honeyhype for helping me with photos this time! Check out her blog. She is amazing.

Wagaya on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jazushi, Surry Hills, NSW

I have realised that one of my favourite types of cuisines is Japanese. From all the places I have eaten in Sydney and Brisbane so far, Japanese food seems to, in general, stick to my memory and impress me the most. One great example, is Jazushi.

Based in Surry Hills, Jazushi is not your average Japanese restaurant. The owners have cleverly combined Japanese fusion cuisine with live jazz entertainment (nightly!), to create a fun, yet elegant dining experience for its customers.

Unfortunately it was a bit dim inside (great ambience for if you're on a date! haha) so I was unable to take some photos of the restaurant's interior and the jazz band's performance, but I assure you it was pretty fantastic!

My friend and I were due for a catch up and I chose Jazushi for our rendezvous as a foodie friend of mine told me good things about this place. Upon arriving and taking a look at the menu, we were so spoilt for choices we couldn't decide what to order! At last, we settled on the set menu ($55) in order to try a bit of everything. This turned out to be the perfect choice, as everything we ate was so delicious!

To start, we were served with one of my favourite foods - sashimi! In this case it was a salmon and kingfish carpaccio. On the plate sat eight pieces of fresh, thinly slice kingfish and salmon, alternated and topped with rocket and micro herbs. It was finished with a tangy dressing and sprinkled with lightly salted capers. 
Salmon and Kingfish Carpaccio

Next came another cold dish - green tea noodle salad, tossed with onion, tomato, some crunchy tempura bits and some seaweed. This was so light, so refreshing and so tasty! The green tea soba was cooked al dente and the salad dressing was slightly tangy with a bit of kick. Look at those beautiful colours! It was almost too pretty to eat!
Green Tea Noodle Salad

Our salad was soon followed by some more fish - silver cod with saikyo sauce. I love a piece of nicely cooked cod! The saikyo sauce was made from a type of slightly sweet miso which gave a nice balance to the savoury taste of the cod. I loved how they included some lemon beneath the cod, so you could squeeze some juice from it and make a lovely sweet and tangy sauce to eat with the fish.
Silver Cod with Saikyo Sauce

A Japanese meal wouldn't go without some fresh, delicious sushi and that's exactly what we got! We received three pieces of sushi each, consisting of salmon, kingfish and tuna nigiri. The fish was very fresh! Three pieces per person was certainly not enough :-(
Mixed Sushi

I always love a nicely cooked tempura dish, and what arrived next was definitely one of my favourite tempura dishes I have ever had (and most creative too!). Camembert Tempura. Yep, that's right, battered, fried pieces of cheese. Sounds different? That's because it was! This is one of Jazushi's signature dishes and my gawd was it amazing! It was deep fried til cripsy, golden on the outside and on the inside revealed a soft, flowing piece of tasty camembert. The dipping sauce tasted abit like aioli and was soo good!
Camembert Tempura

By now were were starting to fill up, but that was just the entrees! Next came our first main - JFC (Jazushi Fried Chicken). This was Jazushi's style of fried chicken, which was garnished with yuzu citrus sauce and on a bed of home made tartare sauce. The chicken was full of flavour, with a slightly crispy skin. Delicious!

Our next main was a pork belly dish in kakuni (Japanese for braised) style. Many of my followers on Foodspotting will know I've had my fair share of pork belly from various places, but I'm not usually a fan of fatty things...But that's because when pork belly is cooked well, it doesn't taste heavy, and fatty at all. Instead, the meat is infused with the sauces with only thin layers of fat in between the meat. Our pork belly literally melted in our mouth when we bit into it! So tender, so heavenly. It didn't feel heavy or fatty at all.
Kakuni Pork Belly

We were soo full at this stage, but more food came out! It was wagyu beef, which was also our last main. I was so full that I almost passed on this! But soon as my friend took a bite she said "oh goodness, this is so good!", I had to try it. OMGGIMMENOW! This wagyu was cooked in a sweet teri sauce ad it was one of the nicer pieces of wagyu I have had in Sydney so far! It wasn't even about the price either. It was just so tender and full of flavour. This was simply a well cooked dish and the sauce just tied it all together so nicely.
Wagyu Beef with Sweet Teri Sauce

We were finally onto desserts! My stomach was about to explode, but I will always have room to fit in dessert :-) haha! We had a dessert share plate which consisted of creme brulee, vanilla bean ice cream rolled in cereal and a chocolate brownie. My favourite was the creme brulee as it was not too sweet and I loved the crispy sugar coating (which I have yet to perfect when making this at home!)
Dessert Share Plate

We loved our dining experience at Jazushi! The food was delicious, the wait staff were friendly, and the atmosphere was just lovely! Swing by and try it out if you ever get a chance! I will certainly be back!

Jazushi on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 18, 2011

Restaurant Atelier, Glebe, NSW

This was one of the earlier restaurants I visited for degustation during my time in Sydney, and unfortunately that's when things started going downhill (for my wallet! But uphill in terms of the start of a great culinary experience :) ) A friend of mine originally brought me to Restaurant Atelier as the food was great, and they also had a mid week special where you could get a three course dinner for $68. That was what we had set out for, but soon as we arrived and I took a glimpse of the menu, our attention immediately turned to the degustation option, which offered a seven course degustation, for only $85. In hindsight, I definitely would have chosen the degustation option, as the quality of the food was simply amazing. 

We started off with some house made sour dough. One of my favourite things about a restaurant is their freshly made bread rolls! The sour dough was still warm when it arrived, with a crispy crust and pillow soft inside. The vinaigrette and tapenade were as usual, but what stood out for me was the French butter! It was so flavoursome and melted right away when spread on the bread. If you haven't tried this stuff, then you must! 
Warm sour dough with vinaigrette, tapenade, French butter.

Our first dish arrived shortly after. We were in for a surprise as we left the decision of dishes to the chef for the entire degustation. We were served with pearl meat, presented beautifully on a clam shell. The pearl meat had a similar texture to scallops, but had a meatier flavour and firmer texture. This was pan seared it, then topped with black sesame and asparagus. On the side was yuzu gel, which the waitress recommended us to eat the pearl meat with some yuzu gel. The natural sweetness of the pearl meat really blew me away. 
Pan seared pearl meat, asparagus, yuzu

Next came our second entree, which was a kingfish ceviche. I have noticed many restaurants using kingfish in their menus, and I must say, this was one of the more creative ways I have seen kingfish being prepared so far. The kingfish ceviche was filled with heirloom tomatoes and topped with a tomato sorbet, which also contained ox heart to give the sorbet a nice pink colour. I wasn't put off by the ox heart, as I could really only taste the tanginess from the tomatoes. The dish was surrounded by dots of basil gel and barrel aged feta. I loved all the textures, tastes and temperatures of this dish and had a great time devouring it all :) 
Kingfish Ceviche, Salad of Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil Gel, Greek Feta & a Tomato Sorbet

For some reason, I really felt like indulging, so when the waitress told us they were offering white truffles  (with a supplement charge, of course) on their dishes that  night, I bit the bullet and gave in to temptation. Boy was I glad I did. What could be better than having white truffle on one of my favourite seafood - scallops! This dish was so tasty! The shiitake mushrooms with Thai basil was so fragrant, and the duck consommé just gave a real flavour punch. This was all topped off with only one beautifully seared, tender scallop, which is the only negative thing I have to say about this dish. 
Burgendy Truffle fromet. Duck Consomme, Shiitake Mushrooms, Seared Scallops, Thai Basil

I was really glad with our surprise degustation menu this time, because next came another favourite of mine - john  dory. It was a poached fillet of John dory drizzled with sauce bernaise on top, pieces of salsify and a tempura shiso leaf. I was amazed by the chef's tempura technique to make a shiso leaf that was battered and deep fried so well! The technique which he used allowed the delicate leaf to retain it's shape yet produce a crunchy, non oily tempura shiso. The king brown mushroom sprinkled with dried fennel pollen from California was beautifully seasoned and also a treat.
Poached Fillets of John Dory, Roasted Salsify, White Onion Soubise, King Brown Mushroom, Bernaiuse Sauce

We were approaching the end of our mains, and I was really excited to see what the chef had in store for us as this would be my second truffle dish. We were served roasted duck with a crisp duck leg confit. Other accompaniments included drole mushrooms potato gnocchi and duck hearts, finished off with a carrot purée and Xeres jus. The duck was slightly undercooked to keep the meat tender which was good. I wasn't too sure about the duck hearts as I'm not a fan of animal innards. Luckily I had the truffle to go with it!
Honey-Roasted Grimauld Duckling Breast, Crisp Confit, Baby Turnips, Confit Carrot Puree, Xeres Jus

Time for desserts! Judging by the quality of our entrees and mains, our desserts were going to be nothing less than  divine. And we were right! Our first dessert was a chocolate based dessert - olive oil chocolate delice, sprinkled with vanilla salt. The waitress explained that the dessert is made in the same way as mayonnaise, hence the texture but with the richness and lightness, making it very fluffy but rich. The sorbet was made from sheep's milk yoghurt, with a chocolate jelly on the side, a freshly baked tuile and finished off with sherry caramel. We had sweet, sour, savoury tastes in our dessert all at once which was amazing!
Chocolate delice, sorbet, tuile

Last, but certainly not least, was a beautifully baked Mandarin & Chocolate Souffle. Inside contained fresh mandarin and a dark chocolate ganache which reminded me of Jaffa balls! I really liked how everything was not too sweet.
 Mandarin & Chocolate Souffle with Mandarin Sorbet, Bitter Orange Milkshake

We had a fabulous dining experience at Restaurant Atelier! The waitress was so knowledgeable and provided great service. The food was amazing and I would definitely recommend this to anyone visiting Sydney! Restaurant Atelier had high quality food, and lucky for us, didn't have a high price tag to match! I am looking forward to returning to this place once they have rotated their menu!

Restaurant Atelier on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 16, 2011

Urbane, Brisbane, QLD

I absolutely hate dining out when I’m sick. But since we had already made a booking for Urbane two weeks in advance, I had to go, even it if meant I wouldn’t be able to properly taste some of the food. I read that Urbane had recently received 2 Stars in The Courier-Mail 2011 Food + Wine Guide, Queensland. Having also read other foodies’ reviews of this restaurant, I went in with pretty high expectations – almost as high as what I had for Shannon Bennett’s Vue De Monde in Melbourne. 

We had the degustation menu and it was a real shame that I had to eat with a half blocked nose. But from what I managed to taste, it was rather enjoyable. I must say though, from all the fine dining restaurants I have eaten at so far, the dishes at Urbane are one of the prettiest and more comparable to Vue De Monde (in terms of presentation and food quality) than most other restaurants I have been to. 

The ambience at the restaurant was also really nice, along with extremely attentive staff and a knowledgeable sommelier. I would really like to visit Urbane again for a special occasion when I’m actually feeling well; so that I can truly appreciate each and every one of the dishes on the degustation menu (maybe when they have a new menu, perhaps? Haha!). But for now, let me allow the photos to do the talking.  
Chevre de Poitou, baby beets and fossilised pear, onion petals, salad leaves, honey vinaigrette

Hiramasa kingfish, grape juice and pickled onion, Apple gel, strawberry aioli and potato crisps (Very fresh kingfish; plump and firm texture)

Coral trout, squid ink and samphire, scallop paper, fennel and peach (I was amazed by the scallop paper! So creative and flavoursome)

Foie gras, almond milk curd and jasmine, gingerbread and honey glazed figs (My favourite dish of the night!)

Crisp pork belly and tail with black bean, pineapple and clove, mustard green and daikon (Very Asian inspired)

Wagyu rib fillet, black cardamom and garlic, nettle and onion, barley and shoots (That splash of black on the side is the black cardamom garlic which is supposed to be eaten with the rib fillet!)

Goats cheese mousse and frozen powder, herb sorbet, Green fruit, basil and celery (Goats cheese mousse had such a strong, but pleasant flavour)

Licorice ice cream and foam, olive oil sponge, Sarsaparilla granita and fresh pear (Loved all the elements in this dessert!)

Urbane on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Lab Bar + Restaurant, Brisbane, QLD

Having previously visited The Lab Bar for a friend’s birthday and enjoyed our experience, I decided to make another visit, this time for my own birthday! The Lab Bar has received many awards over the years, with the most recent being one of the winners of the 2011 Australian Good Food & Travel Guide – 1 Chef Hat restaurant.

We quickly decided on our dishes and our entrees arrived promptly soon after we had devoured the complimentary dinner rolls (the dinner rolls that restaurants serve are always so tasty, aren’t they?) I think we did fairly well at selecting a variety of different tastes from the menu.
Our first entrée was the pork belly with prawns. This definitely a Thai inspired dish, as the green papaya with chilli, peanuts and mango tasted just like a papaya salad I have had before - loved how the papaya was nice and fresh. The pork belly had a crispy crackle and the meat was tender. While the prawns were fresh, it was a little bit disappointing to see they were slightly overdone. It would have been better if they went a bit easier on the seasoning as it was quite salty when eaten with the papaya salad.  
 Free range pork belly, prawns, chilli, mango purée, green papaya & peanuts

Next came our scallop entrée. I have had this before and it was great, but I wanted to order it again for my guests to try. Luckily they were pleased about it. The scallops were seared to a lovely golden brown colour but still soft and tender on the inside. I love it! The onion tarte tatin gave the scallops a nice sweetness, which, when eaten all together with the rocket salad, made it a light but satisfying little dish.  
 Scallop, onion tarte tatin, goats feta & rocket

Time for our mains.
One of the fussier guests had his heart set on a lamb dish which he expected to be perfectly cooked, and that was exactly what he got. The lamb rump was cooked to medium rare, still with a slight tinge of pink in the meat. I watched as my guest nodded his head in approval as he worked his way through his dish. The lamb wasn’t seasoned very much, but it was fine, as the accompaniments were full of flavour, and if the lamb was also fully seasoned, it would have been overkill. I loved the blue cheese gratin too! 
 Lamb rump, blue cheese gratin, confit beetroot, poached garlic purée

I wouldn’t usually order ‘fish & chips’ at a restaurant, but was tempted as they were serving sea perch which I have had before and really liked. The pea & mint purée sounded interesting too, so why not. The perch was grilled to a golden brown and the firm, flesh with subtle flavours from the perch itself was a delight.
 Grilled market fish (sea perch), hand cut chips, spiced herb salt, pea & mint puréeaioli

Honeyhype ordered what turned out to be my favourite dish of the night. A platter filled with mixed seafood (fish chunks, grilled prawns, seared scallops). Everything ingredient used was just so fresh, and tasty with a generous amount of everything – a thumbs up from honeyhype!
Grilled medley of seafood, asparagus, kipfler potatoes, gremolata, orange foam

Our last main was the roasted duck. It was roasted with a crispy skin and the meat inside was soft and tender. However this dish was a little bit light in taste for my liking, especially when the taste of everything else in the dish were rather light, but the cannellini beans mix containing tomato puree, herbs and bacon pieces, that came with it was a great match with the duck.
 Burrawong Farm duck cassoulet, figs, croquette, lemon oil

By the time we had finished our mains, everyone was too full to order dessert, but we ‘had’ to order something, even just to share! I was worried the brownie would turn out too rich and sweet, but I was pleasantly surprised when I took a bite of it, only to discover that it was made from dark chocolate! Mrs. Omggimmenow is a big fan of dark chocolate so she was very happy to help finish the entire dessert. Mr. Omggimmenow loved the yoghurt sorbet, and took ownership of it, so everything was gone in no time!
 Chocolate, date & pistachio brownie, pomegranate & yoghurt sorbet

As the waitress found out that it was my birthday, I was given these lovely chocolates, compliments of The Lab + Bar restaurant. They were good quality liqueur chocolates too!
 Liqueur Chocolates

 Our dining experience at The Lab + Bar restaurant was rather pleasant. The waiters were very polite and offered great service – we were definitely well looked after throughout the night. Even the fussiest diner at the table commented on the food being rather nice, even when it was their fine dining experience! Will recommend this place to friends in the future for sure.
Thank You =)

Lab Bar on Urbanspoon