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2012

In Asian, Dining on
October 24, 2012

Sushi Samurai, Neutral Bay

Deep-Fried Calamari
 
Our dining patterns this year have changed considerably, with our discovery that some coupon deals aren’t as shonky as we’d previously thought. So whilst in previous years, dining out mostly meant visiting the same handful of cheap Asian eateries (where most Asians tend to flock), we’ve now added almost monthly ‘coupon outings’ to new restaurants all over Sydney.

The latest coupon has taken us to Sushi Samurai in Neutral Bay, a 1.5 hour drive away from home, for an all you can eat sushi deal ($65 for four, from Groupon). We were quite excited with this particular deal, as we’d had a memorable dinner at Sushi Samurai a year ago and had been meaning to go back.

The all-you-can-eat menu is a lot more organised than at our previous coupon experience at Wasabi Bistro, as it is an option that is normally available, but at a higher price, of course. When we arrive, the waiter explains the format of the buffet to us. Each person must start of with a starter, of a sushi platter, of which there are two choices, before being able to order the sushi and other dishes from the all-you-can-eat menu. We went with two of each of the platters (to share) to try a bit of everything.

Agedashi Tofu

We hadn’t read the menu properly at the time of ordering, so we were surprised when miso soup came, swiftly followed by adegashi tofu (it turns out that they’re included as part of the starter ‘platter’). The adegashi tofu was surprisingly delicious with its smooth texture, crispy exterior and incredibly tasty tentsuyu broth. And best of all, it was steaming hot on the insides! Even my mum, who isn’t usually fond of adegashi tofu, loved it.

Because we were in a relatively early timeslot (6:00pm- a result of the limited availability of groupon seatings per night), the sushi platters arrived quite quickly after. They were beautiful, and were well worth $17 in their own right, though we would have much rather chosen our own selection of sushi, as there were quite a few pieces of sushi that we weren’t too fond of. We ended up eating everything anyway, but noticed that many other groupon diners left behind quite a bit of uneaten sushi, which was a bit of a waste!

Assorted Sushi 

Option A consisted mostly of nigiri, with salmon, tuna, prawn, kingfish, squid (though the menu stated scallop instead) and egg omlette varieties on offer. We’re not usually really fond of (raw) scallop/squid sushi because of its texture, and unfortunately, this was no exception. The salmon, tuna and kingfish fare much better, though we though the rice was rather dry for our liking.

We are quick to pass the salmon roe gunkan to dad, as it’s one of his favourites. The rest of us however, cannot stand the taste of sea water bursting out of the little eggs with every bite! The sea urchin gunkan however, is left untouched until the end as we’re not really fond of the mushy texture of sea urchin either.

Salmon And Avocado Rolls
 

Option B offered more exciting choices of salmon aburi nigiri (grilled salmon sushi)  as well as salmon/avocado and tuna rolls. Again, we found the rice rather dry, and perhaps it was this reason that the rolls weren’t rolled up as nicely as those we usually find in other Japanese restaurants.

 
We easily identify our favourite component of the platter to be the karrage chicken. It’s a shame that we can’t order it separately by itself, as there is only enough for one small piece of chicken each- it’s incredibly delicious.
 
Deep-Fried Oyster

Apart from the sushi, the all-you-can eat menu also offers a few other options. The menu states that each person an only order one dish at a time, which must be finished before ordering another, but we found that the waiters didn’t really mind if we ordered a little extra.

The fried oysters arrive first topped with a bit of warm egg salad. There was a lot more batter than oyster, and we didn’t think there was much of an oyster taste, but I still enjoyed it.We were a bit disappointed at the presentation of the non-sushi dishes in small white bowls which clearly distinguished the normal diners from the buffet ones, as the presentation of most of the normal mains was quite beautiful.

Gyoza

Interestingly, the gyoza is also deep-fried, almost resembling the deep-fried prawn dumplings you get at yum cha restaurants. Although I usually love deep fried foods, I actually prefer my gyoza pan fried, with less of a crunch- it does make an interesting change though.

Takoyaki
 
I’m not a huge fan of takoyaki, but I can’t help but feel excited when I notice takoyaki on the limited menu. It turns out that I’m the only one on the table who actually enjoys eating them, so I have most it to myself. Though it’s tasty, I couldn’t help feeling that it was almost all batter and very little octupus- I definitely prefer the ones at Wasabi Bistro over these, even if they weren’t authentic.
 
Seaweed Salad
 
By the time we finish the food and get around to ordering a second time, the restaurant is quite packed and service has slowed down quite considerably, with the wait time for our second lot of food being more than 20 minutes, as we see food slowly trickling out of the kitchen. We’re glad when the seaweed salad finally arrives, a small bowl of lettuce leaves, chunks of tofu and a bit of seaweed topped with a carrot garnish. We find seaweed salad is a little dry and bland for our tastes, as there is very little dressing (and the dressing itself is quite light) though that may be because we’re used to our japanese salads drenched in strong sauces. 
 
Salmon Nigiri
 
We notice that most other groupon diners didn’t bother much with the other options, and stuck with the sushi- a wise choice, as the other menu items weren’t all that spectacular. Plus, the sushi came out a tad bit faster than the cooked options too! 

 

There’s quite a few choices for sushi, though they’re mostly the same ones that were on the platter. I’m not usually much of a fan of salmon aburi (grilled salmon) sushi, but order it anyway as it turns out that we’re not really interested in many of the sushi options available. I’m pleasantly surprised to find that this version is quite tasty, as it’s only lightly torched and it’s not overly smoky, whilst creating the interesting smooth texture you get with the transition between cooked and raw fish.

Grilled Kingfish Head
 
I take a while choosing between the grilled kingfish or salmon head, but end up deciding on the Kingfish for as it sounds a little more interesting. The head is grilled beautifully, creating a tasty crispy skin, but we find it much too salty (even for us!) which is a bit of a problem as we find it much less meatier than salmon heads, with pretty much only skin to eat.

 

Salmon and Avocado Sushi

There’s a 90 minute limit on the all-you-can eat, and as there was quite a queue forming outside, we decided to leave before having to be asked to. Although our last order was placed well over 30 minutes before time was up, many of the dishes we’d ordered never ended up coming, leaving us a little disappointed (I was really looking forward to the lotus root chips!!). 
 

Sushi Samurai on Urbanspoon

In Bread, Recipe, Yum Cha on
October 8, 2012

Pineapple Char Siu Buns

After every late night rushing reports and essays, comes the false belief that my productivity during the following days will be just like it is at 4am, when the assignment is only half done and I can hear my neighbour’s truck backing out of the driveway as he gets ready for work. This burst of productivity often involves things like catching up on the numerous lectures I’ve missed on the past week, tidying up my work space(s), replying emails and most importantly, finding time to write up a blog post.

Just judging by the frequency of which I blog, it probably won’t come as a surprise that this has yet to occur, as nothing could be further away from reality!

Actually, it’s not that I haven’t been writing anything for this blog. I’ve been writing some paragraphs now and again, only to delete them a week later when reread what I wrote and realise how stupid it all sounds. These buns, for example, have been waiting to be posted for quite some time now. But have yet to have a completed chunk of writing to be posted with.

’m actually quite excited to post these, as it is the first time on this blog that I’ve featured my most favourite plush toy character – a freckle faced, thumb-sucking, monkey known as Monchhichi! Perhaps not everyone’s idea of cute (heck, I thought they were pretty ugly when I first saw them), but we all have different tastes 😉 Read more

In Asian, Dining on
July 26, 2012

Wasabi Bistro, Surry Hills

There’s nothing I like much more than stuffing myself silly with good food, so I’m always on the lookout for new all-you-can eat restaurants in Sydney. Our usual all-you-can eat Japanese joint, Kansai, has been one of our favourite restaurants but having dined there on countless occasions and having tried every menu item, it’s no longer as exciting as it used to be.

So when Wasabi Bistro offered an all-you-can eat deal on a group buy site, it was just too hard to resist. We’re a little wary of these group deal sites, especially after two not so stellar experiences with them last year but at $69 for two people, with unlimited access to their menu, we decided that this one was well worth the risk.

Seaweed salad

Learning from past experience, we booked our table a month in advance to avoid any booking problems and  chose a Monday night to avoid the crowds. The restaurant was still relatively busy for a Monday night, perhaps because of the many coupon deals they’re doing, but tables were spacious and service wasn’t a problem.

We’re greeted by the manager, who helpfully explains that we can order whatever we want from the menu (except drinks) and tells us that this is the first time they’re trialling an all-you-can-eat option at their restaurant. With a 1.5hour limit, we jump straight into ordering, even before we’ve had a chance to glance over the full menu. 

 

Fresh Oysters

The dishes however, are relatively slow to arrive, giving us plenty of time afterwards to plan our subsequent orders. We start off with a favourite of ours, seaweed salad, which comes as three cute bundles which are so tasty, we immediately order two more. Fresh oysters come with a fancy sprinkle of tobiko coupled with a slightly tangy dressing which goes surprisingly well with the oysters. We’re also keen on trying the deep fried oysters, but after not turning up after an hour, we ask about our order only to be told that they were sold out for the night.

Spicy Sashimi Salad

Covered in a slightly spicy red sauce, the sashimi salad resembled that of one our favourite versions of this dish at Sushi Arigato. This one however, is a little disappointing as there’s only a small sprinkle of sashimi cubes on the lettuce bed. We thought the sauce was so-so, a far cry from the addictive sauce we usually find on sashimi salads, and overall, the salad was a little dry.

Takoyaki

The entree menu offers a wide selection of deep fried goodies, and we waste no time considering how much we can stomach- we just order them all. I’m not too familiar with takoyaki, only having had it a couple of times before, but this version was slightly different as they were crispy from being deep-fried.

Gyoza

My sister, who is crazy about dumplings, orders her favourite of gyoza. This small version is nicely pan fried with a crispy bottom, and we all agree is quite delicious

Prawn Pasle
 
Pronounced prawn parcel, I’m not quite sure whether the spelling on the menu was deliberate or just bad spelling from the menu writer.  Either way, these prawn parcels are crispy and tasty, though we’d rather keep our stomach space for other things.
 
Prawn Fry
 
We order a serving of prawn fries out of curiosity- I was imagining something along the lines of prawn flavoured potato chips, but they turn out to be cute strips of deep fried crumbed prawns. They’re tasty, but are a little on the heavy side, especially for an all-you-can eat meal.
 
Salmon and Avocado Roll

A japanese meal can’t be complete without my sister’s favourite of salmon and avocado roll, and this one is done beautifully, with a generous serving of a salmon.

Rainbow Roll
 

We also order the rainbow roll because of the appeal of the name, only to remember later that we’ve never really liked them. Unfortunately, I can’t say we felt any differently about this one, though it was quite well presented

Tempura Prawns

We’re not too impressed with the tempura prawns when they’re placed on the table, as they’re covered in an excessive amount of batter. However, this batter is extremely light and crispy, and is no problem at all as I could easily eat the batter only and still enjoy it…..though it does leave us feeling quite full afterwards!

Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab

Coated in the same tempura batter as the prawns, the soft shell of the crab adds an extra crunch, making it incredibly crispy. Coupled with the sweet, tasty crab meat, this easily becomes favourite dish of the night.

Wagyu Steak

I’m not quite sure if this is the usual version, as one on the menu appears to be on a hot plate, but we were quite disappointed at the texture of this one. Although it was cooked beautifully, the meat was unfortunately incredibly chewy and would definitely not be worth $28 (regular price).

Tuna Tartar
We notice that most of the tables seated around us are also using vouchers, though a different one from ours, as they all seem to be ordering the same things, starting with the tuna tartare which was beautifully plated, and looked slightly out of place for a restaurant like this. It was better to look at than to eat though, and felt a bit more like a potato salad with a few cubes of tuna thrown in.
 

We were quite disappointed that the sashimi boat, the first thing we ordered, had still not arrived 1 hour and 15 minutes into the meal, despite the staff telling us that it was ‘almost ready’ when we asked about it half an hour ago. We ended up asking complaining to the manager, who apologised and explained that the boat takes some time to make and assured us that it was being made (but surely it doesn’t take more than an hour to make?)- and indeed, the boat did come out some 5 minutes later!

The boat itself was beautifully arranged with pieces of fresh salmon, tuna and kingfish, which looked much nicer than the sashimi boats we were used to at Kansai. We would however, liked it much better if it had been brought out near the beginning of the meal, before we had gotten full and not when nearing dessert.

We had also ordered several other (smaller sized) sashimi dishes from their menu, as well as quite a few other dishes which didn’t end up coming, so we moved onto dessert. Dessert options on the menu only consisted of ice-cream, but our first choice of matcha ice cream was unavailable that night. The only option available was therefore vanilla, which wasn’t too exciting, but it was nice to end the meal with a something sweet.

Wasabi Bistro on Urbanspoon

In Uncategorised on
July 24, 2012

I’m still here!

It’s nearing the end of another month long uni holiday, of which I’ve wasted a week (and counting) just sitting on my recliner doing nothing (recovering from knee surgery). Luckily my laptop’s been fixed so I can now spend my time (relatively) more productively and can finally get around to blogging, after a two month absence from this blog. While I’m still editing photos, this is just a quick post to let you know that I’m still here! 😉 

So what have I been up to these holidays?

  • Visiting Watkin’s Orchard again this year, this time to their second orchard via the bumpiest road I’ve ever been on. As always we had plenty of mandarins to take home, but this time, they also had mushrooms for picking as well. Although most of the good ones had been picked by the time we got there, we found it even more fun than picking mandarins, though that may have been because we’ve never picked mushrooms before!

  • My friend also invited us over to her (amazing) new house and we spent most of the night cooking a bit of Spanish food, which took us a very long time to cook! We made delicious meatballs (from this recipe I think?)

    …and a Spanish bread bake (using this recipe).

Normal blogging should resume soonish- hopefully before the end of my holidays! 🙂

P.S: The pictures in this post have been taken with my new (mirrorless) camera, which I’m still slowly learning to use- you can expect more nooby photos in upcoming posts!

In Cake, Recipe on
April 16, 2012

Chocolate Sponge Cakes

IMG_8911

Lately, I’ve been having a slight huge chocolate addiction.

It’s not surprising really, since Easter has just passed…..and I managed to buy a couple of boxes half priced Easter eggs last Monday. But I do find it rather alarming that I’m pulling chocolate goodies out of my oven every couple of days, and adding more chocolate desserts on my ‘to make’ list too!

IMG_8901

Add to that, my terrible dietary habits or eating Chinese takeaway at least 3 nights a week, thanks to work, and constant snacking on chips, chocolate and whatever else is on special at the supermarket this week (I need something to fuel my late night studying right?)- I don’t think I’ve ever been this unhealthy!

My reasoning for making so many sweet cake and cookies at home is that I think they’re a little less bad for you than store-bought ones. These chocolate sponge cakes for example, aren’t actually too unhealthy, as they only contain a small amount of oil, not too much sugar and are only ices with a little bit of chocolate whipped cream. Read more