Lunch @ Magill Estate Restaurant (Adelaide, Australia)

January 4, 2021 in Australian, European by thywhaleliciousfay

During my first visit to Adelaide in February ’20, the only restaurant I managed to visit was Orana. So one could say my return trip to Adelaide in October ’20 was very much for me to try the other restaurants that I didn’t get to in my earlier trip.

So while I used Australia Good Food Guide (2020) as a guide in deciding which restaurants to try, Magill Estate Restaurant was also recommended to me during my earlier trip by one of the stall holders at Ebenezer Night Market. So I knew Magill Estate Restaurant was a ‘must’. And thus, reservation was made 2.5 weeks in advanced via their website for lunch. And in my reservation, I made my selection for the tasting menu (7 courses). Actually… There’s only 1 menu available. For both lunch and dinner. Hee.

Most vineyards in Adelaide are only accessible by car. So it’s only natural to assume the same for Magill Estate Restaurant since it’s after all a restaurant located within a vineyard. But luckily for me (since it isn’t new news that I still don’t have my driving license), Magill Estate Restaurant was just a 30 minutes bus journey from Adelaide city centre! I know right! How good! Although if one is taking the public transport, one needs to take note of the bus timing because its frequency is pretty low.

I arrived early for my 12pm reservation, and tried to pass time by exploring the compound. And the keyword was ‘tried’ because I ended up spending most of my time waiting at Magill Estate Cellar Door which was the building beside the restaurant. Ha.

And when I finally stepped into the restaurant, I fell in love with the place. The restaurant overlooked the vineyard and the full height glass provided an unobstructed view of it. I was extremely lucky to be blessed with good weather during my lunch. Think endless greens set against brilliantly blue sky that’s dotted with light, wispy clouds. Such an amazing view!

As the food menu was fixed (being a 7 courses tasting menu), the staff took my order for drinks instead. Besides being able to order alcohol by the glass, there were 2 options for wine pairing. One being ‘icon and luxury wine match’ at AUD260, and the other was ‘sommeliers choice wine match’ for AUD125. Having tried a few wine pairing (at other restaurants), I learnt that wine pairing really wasn’t for me because I couldn’t finish all the glasses. I always end up tipsy if I attempted to drink them all. Haha. But because Magill Estate Restaurant was an extension of the Magill Estate winery, I figured it’ll be a shame not to do the wine pairing. And so, I opted for the AUD125 instead of AUD260.

And with that, I commenced my tasting menu (7 courses), AUD220 with:-

1) Snack #1 (above) – Oyster.


2) Snack #2 (above) – House-made crumpet with trout roe and trout butter.

3) Snack #3 (above) – Swiss brown mushroom on rice cracker.


4) Snack #4 (above) – Lamb sando (sandwich) with pickled cabbage and Japanese mustard.


5) Snack #5 (above) – Chicken wing stuffed with scallop.

6) Snack #6 (above) – Roasted mushroom broth with macadamia oil.


7) Lobster (above) – With kombu, fermented ice.


8) Whiting (above) – With fermented green peppers, blood lime. And the staff mentioned sashimi grade, I was told the sashimi-grade King George whiting was slightly torched. Really good.


  

9) Bread, Complimentary (above) – Butter made with Jersey cream, and served in 4 flavours; Plain with sea salt, roasted mushroom, white miso and seaweed.


10) Ling fish (above) – With turnip, miso. Unfortunately, I found the dish salty. I initially thought it was the burnt butter sauce, but no! It was the ling fish. How odd. Was it overly seasoned, or was the fish naturally salty? The turnip (done 2 ways; pickled ribbon and puree) didn’t help to offset the saltiness.


  

11) Duck (above) – With mandarin, fennel. The staff mentioned the dry-aged duck breast was put in the fridge for 3 weeks before it’s cooked in the oven. And I liked how the duck was paired with the fennel salad. The fennel salad acted like a palate cleanser which I had after every bite of the duck.

12) Lamb (above) – With almond, kale and fenugreek. A cut from between the ribs was used for the lamb. And it’s interesting that mullet roe was shaved onto the kale salad. Italy influenced, the staff mentioned.


13) Palate cleanser (above) – Blood orange, strawberry, vanilla. And this was beautiful. I liked how the dish incorporated different textures of the blood orange; Flesh of the fruit, and blood orange jam.

14) Apple (above) – With pine nut, brown butter. And this would Magill Estate Restaurant’s rendition of the apple pie.

15) Petit fours (above)

16) Coffee, Complimentary (above)

I had a blast at Magill Estate Restaurant. It was such a good meal. Definitely deserving of its 2 hats by Australia Good Food Guide (2020). I highly recommend Magill Estate Restaurant!

There’s no question of how delectable the food was. And it’s amazing to see a vineyard in a residential area. Uh huh… Urban vineyard. But what made my dining experience extra memorable was the service. To cite an example… The staff knew I was due to fly out of Adelaide later in the day (at 5.10pm). She constantly checked with the kitchen to make sure I could finish my meal within 2.5 hours; She learnt that I was taking the public transport and knew the bus heading into Adelaide city centre only comes hourly. So she was making sure I wouldn’t miss my bus (and thus my flight. Ha). Really appreciated it!

And because I was conscious of time, I noticed the crowd come in around 12.45pm. So if one has a flight to catch (like me), do make reservation for 12pm because the pace of the dishes between 12pm to 12.45pm was faster. Another observation that I made was that it got a little glaring/harsh on the eyes around 2pm (for my meal in mid October). There wasn’t direct sunlight entering the restaurant through the full height glass, so I guessed it’s probably UV (ultraviolet) rays.

With my wine pairing, my meal came up to AUD345 (inclusive of tax). And yes… I actually left the restaurant slightly high. Haha. How do one finish all the glasses of wine for wine pairing, I still wonder.

PENFOLDS MAGILL ESTATE RESTAURANT
78 Penfold Road, Adelaide, SA, Australia
+61 8 8301 5551, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Sat – Sun : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 9
Wed – Sat : 18:30 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon & Tues
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.

Dinner @ Gou Sushi (Sydney, Australia)

December 28, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

One could say my quest to find more Japanese restaurants offering omakase in Sydney doesn’t stop. Not when a few of my favourites (1, 2) have since closed down. Ultimate sadness.

Gou Sushi has been in operation for 5 years. But it’s interesting that they don’t have much online presence despite of that. I wasn’t able to find any information on their omakase course or of their reservation system for omakase. So I dropped them a message on Facebook even though the Instagram post, which I first read about Gou Sushi, mentioned slots for omakase were fully booked till (end) January 2021.

And I was really fortunate; The staff managing their Facebook account mentioned they were booked out but offered to check if they could fit me in (as a solo diner). So yeah! The rest is history I guess, because I secured a reservation for mid-December. :)

To shed some light on the omakase course offered at Gou Sushi… It’s only available on Saturdays. But not every Saturday though. Head chef Rio Lau Chun Man takes a break every 2 weekends. Uh huh. Say omakase is available on Weeks 1 and 2. It’s not available on Week 3 as the restaurant closes to rest. And then it’s back again on Weeks 4 and 5. But omakase aside, head chef Rio mentioned set menus are offered on weekdays, together with a-la carte menu.

I reached early at 5.50pm for my 6pm reservation. And if one’s booking is for the first seating, I recommend coming either punctually (at 6pm) or 1 minute later because they only unlock the main door at 6pm sharp.

And Gou Sushi being a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, the space was designed with the conveyor-belt placed in the center of the space in a rectangular layout. So I stepped through the entrance to see head chef Rio standing in the middle of the ‘belt’ island. And upon seated, the staff passed me the omakase menu and drinks menu.

Interestingly (again), I thought everyone had to be present before our omakase course started. But heaf chef Rio started me off first. It was later through my conversation with him that I realised another group of 4 was meant to be present at 6pm too. But head chef Rio went on to say he’s flexible (with timing) because most of his customers for his omakase course were regulars. In fact, he shared his Saturday omakase came about because of requests from his regulars. And if one was curious… The group of 4 only arrived at 7.25pm.

So yes… My omakase menu, AUD85 comprised of:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Abalone sashimi. With dashi jelly and ponzu sauce. I guess I must be too used to eating braised abalone because I was expecting this to be tender too. However, this was crunchy (as how abalone sashimi would be). It’s texture reminded me much of geoduck sashimi.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Crab chawanmushi.

  
  

3) Dish #3 to #6 (above) – Bass grouper kombu-jime, tuna daikon-maki, ark shell, and bonito.

4) Dish #7 (above) – Scallop and celeriac tempura.

  
  

5) Dish #8 to #11 (above) – John dory, sea eel kombu maki, ikura, and aburi paradise prawn. The prawn was topped with mayonnaise, firefly egg and some crisp bites which I reckon was garlic. Garlic chips.

6) Dish #12 (above) – Chilean tooth fish saikyo-miso grill.

  
  

7) Dish #13 to #16 (above) – Chimaki, cuttlefish, blue mackerel, tuna tartare. Chimaki meaning a steamed Japanese dumpling made of various ingredients, wrapped in leaf (bamboo or banana). And at Gou Sushi, sea eel (anago) was wrapped within the bamboo leaf. Although when first presented, head chef Rio teased and said “糯米鸡” (Lo mai gai – Chinese dish of steamed glutinous rice with chicken, wrapped in lotus leaf). And the tuna tartare was special; Instead of sushi rice, puff rice was used.


8) Dish #17 (above) – Cold green tea soba.

  
  

9) Dish #18 to #21 (above) – Tasmania handroll, egg plant, scampi, and aburi salmon belly. And for the open handroll, there was sea urchin, scallop and salmon. However, the problem with passing the handroll by putting it on the serving plate meant that the seaweed wasn’t as crisp as it got wet from the leftover sauce on the serving plate. Such a shame cause I really like this. And for the scampi, I was told was that the the head innards was marinated with miso and cooked before topping it on the scampi.

10) Dish #22 (above) – Red bean ice cream with chocolate brownie.

It was a nice heartwarming dinner; I came alone but left having made a new friend. Yes, with head chef Rio. Dining at Gou Sushi was like dining at a friend’s place. He was friendly, easy going, and a very engaging conversationalist too. Although my Chinese wasn’t as strong and had to mix in some English. Ha. And yes, head chef Rio was originally from Hong Kong. It’s also through my conversation with him that I learnt Gou Sushi has been opened for 5 years, and that head chef Rio was previously working at Masuya and had trained under Toshihiko Oe san (now head chef at Sushi Oe). What a small world (read my story of how I met Oe san to understand why so)!

Food wise, it was nice. But to manage one’s expectation… It wasn’t nice to the extent that it wow-ed. Rather, it was nice enough to satisfy. And head chef Rio’s sushi was more of fusion than traditional. And because my meal was in December, he shared his sushi rice was seasoned with red vinegar instead of white as a Christmas special.

Would I recommend Gou Sushi? Yes for one’s casual sushi craving. But no if one is after a more elaborated omakase experience. And if one is also looking for a venue for bigger groups, Gou Sushi is definitely a good venue because of it’s relaxed vibe! In fact, Gou Sushi was almost like a hidden gem. Although it’s a mere 3 minutes walk from Central station, there’s barely any human traffic to the restaurant; It’s located between the 2 exits. So people exiting from the left exit would head left and people exiting from the right exit would head right. Thus missing the restaurant. Pity. But that said, head chef Rio has established a pretty strong regular customer base to keep the business going. And it’s seems like he’s only going to get busier because word of his Saturday omakase has gotten out! :)

GOU SUSHI
2/30-34 Chalmers Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 8387 1148, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Fri : 11:30 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Fri : 17:30 – 20:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Sat (every 2 weeks) & Sun
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.

Dinner @ Hachioji Willoughby (Sydney, Australia)

November 22, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

After learning about Hachioji’s opening in August ’20 from fellow blogger I’m Still Hungry, I made my reservation for a meal in (early) November ’20. Not that the restaurant was booked out that advanced. But rather… November was my earliest slot since I restricted myself to 1 (fancy) meal a week. And yes, it’s a habit that I plan my meals in advanced.

Between the first seating (6pm) and second seating (8pm), reservation was made for 6pm. However, I was very late. I only reached Hachioji at 6.20pm. My bad. And so… I entered the restaurant to see the other 6 customers had already started their dinner omakase course. Since I was the last to reach, I could only guess that seats were pre-assigned. Especially with the perspex screens which were placed between the different groups of customers as part of the restaurant’s COVID-19 safety plan.

Prior to my meal, I didn’t know chef-owner Benson Pang wasn’t responsible for making sushi for all customers. So yes… I was assigned to the half of the counter that’s served by sous chef. Sigh. Had I known earlier, I would have indicated my preference for head chef Benson in my reservation. Shrug.

There was an option to upgrade my AUD99 course to include sea urchin and scampi nigiri sushi-s with an additional AUD31. I went with it since I wanted to have sea urchin. And with that, I (quickly) commenced my 18-courses dinner menu, AUD99 with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Lady finger (okra) topped with bonito flakes. I think there were small pieces of fish cake too.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Snapper sashimi.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Mackerel sushi.

  
  
  
  
  

4) Dish #4 (above) – Nigiri sushi assortment of trevally, 4-days aged kingfish, John dory with umeshu and white soy sauce jelly, 4-days aged salmon with caviar, snapper with yuzu pepper, blue fin tuna (really small piece of tuna, by the way), premium fatty tuna (otoro), alfonsino (ain’t sure if I got this right), aburi scallop with shiso leaf, grilled and torched firefly (this was introduced as ‘baby squid’ by sous chef), and sea eel (which sous chef introduced as ‘baby eel’). And I wished the sushi were bigger. These were like size XS. And food aside, I was quite amazed at myself that I managed to catch up with the rest by my third piece of sushi. Ha.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Rich bowl with oyster, salmon roe and wasabi leaf.

6) Top up to premium omakase menu, AUD31:-


(A) Scampi sushi (topmost)

(B) Tasmania sea urchin sushi with shiso leaf (above)

7) Dish #6 (above) – Fish soup.

8) Dish #7 (above) – Houjicha ice cream.

With the top-up of AUD31 for the scampi and sea urchin sushi-s, my dinner came up to AUD130. Did I enjoy my meal? Not really. I was bummed to know there was 2 chefs and that I was served by sous chef. And very unfortunately, sous chef failed to impress too.

Sous chef wasn’t too confident with his English, so I failed to hear (or even understand) what was served for 90% of my dishes. He spoke really softly. Mumbled, to be exact. I could have asked him to repeat, but I decided not to put him on the spot because I figured it wouldn’t be any clearer. In fact, the only time when I heard him at his loudest was when he said “scallop”. And now… I could be nitpicking this but sous chef should have cleaned the sauce from the plate before placing the next sushi.

Every now and then, I could hear what head chef Benson said to the customers served by him. And I thought it was odd he always said “no soya sauce” with every sushi. Hmm…

So while I wouldn’t recommend Hachioji based on my most recent dining experience, I guess I ought to take into consideration that they are still into their first few months of operation. So yes… I may re-visit in a few months’ time to see if there has been improvement since. Hopefully sous chef would be more confident and speak louder. Although for my next reservation, I would indicate my preference for head chef Benson and for the VIP omakase course (AUD188).

But having said that, noting how most popular sushi-yas are fully booked out, one could give Hachioji a try if one is staying in the North Shore and has a very strong craving for sushi that needs to be satisfied as it’s fairly easy to get a reservation at Hachioji. Their affordable menu price is makes dining at Hachioji pretty attractive too. But in case one is strict about the chef’s background, please note the chefs are Taiwanese. Pretty evident by the way they dressed with the black tie underneath.

HACHIOJI
2/56-58 Frenchs Road, Willoughby, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 422 421 203, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Sun : 11:30 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 17:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.