Dinner @ Hachioji (Sydney, Australia)

November 22, 2020 in Japanese

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 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.

Dinner @ Firedoor (Sydney, Australia)

October 25, 2020 in Australian

When I made my reservation to dine at Firedoor in December 2019, I was given the options between table and counter (not to be confused with bar counter) seats. And I opted for the latter. But what I didn’t realise was that depending on which end of the counter one was at, the seats could get pretty hot. Literally because one would be subjected to direct heat from the grill! But don’t get me wrong. I rather be on the ‘hot seat’ cause there’s where I could get my full view of chef-owner Lennox Hastie cooking away at the grill.

Both a-la carte and chef’s menu were offered on the menu. And I went with the chef’s menu. Mainly because I was dining solo and that was my best option of being able to try as many dishes as possible. And thus, I commenced my dinner (chef’s menu, AUD160) with:-

1) Radish, wattleseed, lonza (above) – Wrapped with pork cheek.

2) Oyster, desert lime, oyster leaf (above)


  

3) Kangaroo, macadamia, davidson plum (above) – The staff opened the lid of the claypot to reveal the kangaroo meat beneath. Embers, which were still burning, were placed beneath the leaves to smoke the meat. Was told by the staff that the meat was more on the raw side so that it could absorb the aroma of the smoked leaves. Was also told to slide the meat off the skewer and into the bread. Something like a sandwich. And the flat bread was really soft. As I tore the bread along the side, I realised it’s like a pita (pocket bread). Tried a piece of the kangaroo meat on its own and it was tenderly good. I really enjoyed this.

4) Burratina, peach, smoke tomato (above) – The smokiness in the tomato was distinct. Nice.


5) Bonito, blood plum, celtuce (above) – I loved everything about this dish. The bonito was beautifully grilled; Its centre still slightly opaque. And the sweetness of the succulent flesh was enhanced by the slightly salty brown butter-tamari sauce and crispy fried capers.

6) Yellow squash, pyengana, lovage (above)

  

7) Bread, cultured butter, sprouted rye (above) – Served slightly charred, I preferred if the bread was served warm. Not sure why I had that expectation though. Maybe cause fire seemed easily accessible in Firedoor, and I was craving for warm bread? Shrug.

8) Murray cod, tatsoi, pil pil (above)


9) Pork chop, pepper, charred leek (above) – Beef was on the original menu as the main course. The staff offered to replaced it with fish when I mentioned my dietary restriction (of no beef). However, noting that there’s already a few fish dishes on the menu, I stated my preference for something else. And was thus given pork.

10) Geraldton wax, chamomile, fig leaf (above)

  

11) Woodfired rum baba, smoked creme diplomat (above)


12) Marshmallow (above) – With plum and dark chocolate.

Seated at the counter meant there was opportunity to talk to head chef Lennox. He asked if I was local or visiting. I replied, “travelling”. Not exactly true, but I still do feel like I’m a tourist despite having spent 5 months in Australia (at the point of dinner). And I noticed he talked more to the locals. I guess his initial question was his way of sassing out which customers are easier happier to converse with> Shrug. But I was happy to be left alone. I had drinks with colleagues prior to dinner, and was a bit… Haha.

Will I recommend Firedoor? I sure do! I enjoyed the dishes although I wished I had a bigger stomach cause I would have loved to try some of the a-la carte dishes like the pipis or (whole) quail. And it’s always intriguing and fascinating to visit a restaurant which did all their cooking by fire. Yes, including warm water served to customers.

And it’s nice that Firedoor has received increased publicity with its appearance on Netflix’s Chef’s Table BBQ. As taken from Firedoor’s website… Head chef Lennox takes viewers on a journey through his childhood, his career, and his fascination with fire. He showcases how he draws extraordinary flavors out of meat, fish and vegetables using only a wood fire, a grill and his unique skills honed in Spain at Etxebarri and then in Sydney at Firedoor. Introducing viewers to a number of amazing Australian producers and pushes the limits of traditional open flame cooking, breathing new life into the meaning of barbecue. The downside is that they are fully booked till May 2020. I kid not.

FIREDOOR
23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 8204 0800, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Thur – Fri : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sat : 17:30 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon & Sun

Dinner @ Kuon Omakase (Sydney, Australia)

October 17, 2020 in Japanese

So after my really memorable dinner at Jizakana in August 2019, I had been meaning to return for chef Hideaki Fukada’s food. But in February 2020, just as I was (late) posting pictures of my meal at Jizakana on Instagram, a fellow instagrammer shared that chef Fukada san had since left Jizakana to open his own restaurant. Gasp!

Since then, I had been checking regularly for updates. And once word was out that Kuon Omakase was officially opening in June 2020 and had started accepting reservation, I quickly made mine. But for July. 2 seatings were offered; 5.30pm and 8pm. And I booked myself for the first seating.

On the day of my dinner, I received a text message from Kuon Omakase with the food menu. Was also given options to top up for sea urchin tempura (AUD20) and truffle (AUD20 for 5g). No surprise that I went with the two add-ons. Keke.

Arrived at the restaurant at 5.20pm. Although it was raining, they could only let us in at 5.30pm as they needed to set up the place. And it’s interesting that seats were pre-assigned with place cards. Once everyone settled down, I commenced my omakase dinner, AUD180 with:-

1) Zeitaku monaka (above) – Osetra caviar with sea urchin and toro tartare on crispy rice cracker. If one had been reading my blog or following my Instagram long enough, one would know my disapproval on using these wafer biscuits (monaka) for savoury. But that’s my personal preference. Else this would have been such a glorious dish with the luxurious ingredients.


2) Usuzukuri (above) – White fish with ponzu sauce. Enjoyed this.

3) Tempura #1 (above) – QLD tiger prawn head.


4) Tempura #2 (above) – QLD tiger prawn.


5) Tempura #3 (above) – Tsushima sea eel.

6) Tempura #4 (above) – Red spot whiting. And for this, we were only given half (a) kisu fish.


7) Tempura #5 (+ AUD20) (above) – Sea urchin and shiso leaf.

8) Kani chawanmushi (5g truffle, + AUD20) (above) – Japanese egg custard with snow crab meat. And for customers who opted for additional truffle, chef Jun Miyauchi came round with the truffle balls to shave, weigh and plate the shaved truffle in front of us.

9) Mushi awabi (above) – Steamed abalone with abalone liver and sea urchin sauce.

10) Ginmutsu nitsuke (above) – Toothfish nitsuke.

11) Yuzu sorbet (above) – Pretty interesting odd that this was served as a palette cleanser just before the sushi leg of our meal.

  
  
  
  

12) Omakase sushi (above) – We were served an assortment of premium fatty tuna (otoro) from New South Wales (Australia), calamari and shiso leaf, imperador (kinmedai), John Dory, premium fatty tuna (otoro) from Japan, scallop, scampi with mullet roe, and anago which was slightly torched. And for the sushi, I noticed chef Fukada san would make them all at one go before serving us. With the exception of the tuna from Japan where he served after making every 2 pieces. As though acknowledging the tuna’s better quality.

13) Tome wan (above) – Fisherman’s miso broth.

14) Handroll (above) – With salmon roe, sea urchin and minced tuna.

  

15) Tamago (above)

16) Mizu-yokan dessert (above) – Red bean agar and strawberry.

It was unfortunate that I arrived at Kuon Omakase with high expectation, only to leave disappointed. The tempura was average despite having read that they used cold-pressed sesame oil that cost $450 for 20 litres. The tempura batter was thick and hard instead of thin and crisp. It might have been fried for a tad too long in the boiling oil too.

But it was really the sushi that let me down. I remembered it was way better when I last had chef Fukada san’s at Jizakana. Firstly, the size of the sushi were oddly small. I was worried about finishing half pack of ramen just 1.5 hours before dinner. But turned out, that might have saved me from hunger cause dinner at Kuon Omakase wasn’t filling. Next, the ratio of sushi rice to the topping (neta) was off-balanced. And finally, I didn’t like that he made all 8 pieces at one shot first before serving us. Sushi once made, should be served immediately to customers. Piece by piece.

Would I recommend Kuon Omakase? Well… I am really on the fence. I could easily think of elsewhere for better sushi (traditional or creative/fusion). And I couldn’t help but feel they were trying to dazzle us by using expensive ingredients (think caviar) instead of concentrating on the taste. But having said that, I still hope to return to Kuon Omakase for another meal to see if there’ve been improvements since. I guess I ain’t giving up on chef Fukada san’s sushi especially since I know how good it could be based on Jizakana days.

Although it’s also to note that as I share this review, Kuon Omakase is fully booked till January 2021. They will be implementing a new booking system for February 2021 and onwards, where reservations are only released for 1 month ahead.

KUON OMAKASE
Shop 20/2-58 Little Hay Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Thur : 17:30 – 22:30
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sun : 12:00 – 22:30
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.