Sunday, 12 August 2018

Tokyo to Hakodate Shinkansen

I recently had the opportunity of visiting Hokkaido, to experience for the first time - Japan in summer.

On this trip with my mum, we flew from Sydney to Tokyo on a red eye flight and spent one night in Tokyo, I specifically chose a hotel near Tokyo Station to make it easier to catch a early Shinkansen to Hakodate the next morning. We stayed at Mitsui Garden Kyobashi which was a short walk to the station using Exit 24 in the Yaesu underground mall (it was simple once we figured the giant maze that is Tokyo Station). 

For this trip, I bought the 7 day JR pass which was $342 AUD from JTB Travel as at July 2018. The pass sells for 29,110 yen, which is well worth it if you are travelling from Tokyo to anywhere in Hokkaido as the trip to Hakodate alone is already 23,210 yen.  You can also make reservations online up to one month in advance on https://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/English/wb/common/Menu/Menu.aspx



The ekiben shop Ekibenya Matsuri has a huge range of bentos, literally anything you can think of from the different regions of Japan, Luckily it's also open at 5:30am which means we were able to pick up some for the ride to Hakodate. It's almost a ritual to pick up a ekiben for a Shinkansen ride, and even so early in the morning, the shop is doing a bustling trade.


I booked the first train of the day which departed at 6:32am from Tokyo Station. I definitely recommend checking out where you need to go the night before if you can as Tokyo Station is massive. Look for the green Shinkansen signs that say Tohoku Shinkansen (はやぶさ).

We caught the Hayabusa 1 which is all reserved seating. The trip to Hakodate station takes just under 5 hours, with a transfer from the Shinkansen to the regular train at Shin-Hakodate station to get to Hakodate station - plenty of time to enjoy our ekiben, have a nap and enjoy the beautiful scenery.


Pork katsu sando

Shinkansen shaped E7 bento


Saturday, 28 July 2018

The Bathers' Pavillion - Balmoral Beach, Sydney

The Bathers' Pavillion has a gorgeous view of the always calm Balmoral beach. It has unbeatable views of the beach and ocean. The historical building, which houses the restaurant and the more casual café next door, was built in 1929 as bathing facilities for the numerous summer visitors back in the day (thought to reach to thirty thousand on a busy day). 

I took my mum here for lunch on a nice summer day, which I think is the best time of the year to enjoy this venue. Dimmi were doing a 50% deal on food which made it a bargain.


I'm here with my mum to have a leisurely weekend lunch in the restaurant side, which is more of a fine dining setting than the café next door.

Amuse bouche

The amuse bouche was a tasty morsel to begin the meal. I didn't catch the waiter explaining the amuse bouche, however it was very much like a cod fritter.

Moreton Bay bug tail 

I thought the entreés were a lot more interesting than the mains and dessert. The juicy Moreton Bay bug tail was served with some creamy sweet corn polenta, and a sauce made with seaweed butter. Finger times provided a hit of freshness and an interesting texture to the dish.

Yellowfin tuna tartare 

The tuna tartare was a light dish, with the tuna itself marinated in ponzu, a citrus sauce, and served with airy rice paper crisps. The green component was made with avocado.

Poached Murray cod

Fish special of the day

The mains we ordered were both fish, one being the special of the day. The Murray cod was  delicately poached and quite subtle in flavour. The fish sat on a bed of squid 'linguini' and a dashi broth and sprinkled with a squid ink crumble. I especially enjoy the springy noodle-like strands of squid.

Raspberry and vanilla petits gâteaux pistachio, rose petal ice cream, strawberry jus

White chocolate Chantilly with grapefruit sorbet pistachio sponge, green tea, fruit nectar

Petit fours

Unfortunately the desserts were nothing special and were overwhelmingly sweet despite having fruity flavours. On the other hand, the petit fours paired well with my coffee.



The Bathers' Pavilion Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Mr Liquor Dirty Italian Disco - Mascot, Sydney

Public Service Announcement: Get into Mr Liquor Dirty Italian Disco while you can as it's slated to close up shop later this month. I loved my recent visit there; the pop-up restaurant is casual, fun and has a fantastic vibe complete with disco ball and a wood-fire oven named 'Disco Inferno'. 

The restaurant itself is housed in a space that was once a drive through Bottle-O in the Tennyson Hotel. There's a number of cocktails on the menu or you can peruse the wide range of beer and wine on offer in the 'bottle shop'. The food is by the Pinbone team so you know you're in for a fantastic meal.

Mr Liquor Dirty Italian Disco menu

Inside of the converted Bottle-O restaurant

Milano Spagilato

I order the Milano Spagilato cocktail which is a fruity mix of Campari, Prosecco, mandarin and lemon. It's very reasonably priced at $12 and is a nice drink to kick start a Friday evening.

Beef tongue and Bruschetta

Eggplant and cheese bruschetta

The beef tongue is served in long slices and the meat is tender and so flavoursome thanks to the addition of porcini and tomato. The bruschetta is simple yet so delicious due to the smoky wood fired bread topped with eggplant and melted cheese.

Wood fired zucchini, pistachio and green garlic

Porchetta

The juicy porchetta is served with sweet roasted pineapple and goes well with the zucchini salad. Both dishes feature the lovely smoky flavours from the wood fire oven. The portions are fairly generous too which is a bonus.

Mr Liquor Dirty Italian Discos keeps the dessert options simple, with a choice of two desserts and two soft serve flavours. 

Blackberry, honeycomb and grape soft serve 

Hazelnut tiramisu

The blackberry soft serve is nice but the hazelnut tiramisu takes the prize; soft and fluffy sponge layered with creamy mascarpone with a dollop of Nutella hidden underneath. The handful of crunchy hazelnuts add a nice touch. It's a big portion so best shared between two.

Despite loving all the dishes ordered, I did feel a tinge of order regret when I saw the amazing looking pastas. I'm already thinking of how I can squeeze in another visit to try the pasta before the pop-up closes!

Mr. Liquor Dirty Italian Disco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Allegra Dining - Waterloo, Sydney

Weekend brunch is on another level at Allegra Dining which bypasses the traditional breakfast dishes in favour of more hearty and inventive dishes. There's a focus on fresh ingredients in the modern Australian/Italian menu, with fresh pasta made in-house.

It's a lovely space in the buzzing Danks Street dining precinct, and perfect for a group get together for V's birthday.

Rosa Gets Drunk

The Rosa Gets Drunk cocktail is the Rosa, a lychee, strawberry and watermelon frappé on the standard drinks menu, served with your alcohol of choice. I choose rum as my poison of choice and it's absolutely delicious: summery and fruity. There's also plenty of options for the non-drinkers.

Spanner crab sandwiches

Ricotta hotcakes

Saffron pappardelle with pork sausage

Squid ink spaghetti with prawns

It's honestly hard to pick a favourite dish as it's all pretty damn good. I love both the pasta dishes and the ricotta hotcakes are so fluffy and light. 

Tiramisu

If you only order one dessert here, make it the classic tiramisu; espresso soaked Savoiardi sponge layered with mascarpone and Amadei chocolate.

Mango pancake

This is a fancy pants version of the typical yum cha dish. The concept is the same - a thin crepé pancake wrapped around mango pieces and loads of cream, or in Allegra's version it's filled with ice cream and also includes passionfruit, meringue and pearls.

I absolutely love the idea of brunch with more substantial and sophisticated dishes, in a relaxed and casual setting. Allegra Dining excels in this along with having warm, friendly and accomodating staff. Definitely will be back again soon! 
Allegra Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Kaishoku Michiba - Ginza, Tokyo

One of our most memorable meals in Tokyo during a trip my husband and I took in November 2016 was actually a place we randomly stumbled across. We were walking around in Ginza after feasting at the Tsukiji fish market and wandered into this building, saw the sign for Kaishoku Michiba and decided to try our luck for a lunch time spot. 

The restaurant is named after Rokusaburo Michiba or as you may know him as the Iron Chef for Japanese cuisine. Unfortunately we didn't spot the man himself at the restaurant during our lunch time visit. 


Luckily we went in quite early and they were able to squeeze us in, on the proviso that we were able to finish in an hour and a half. The restaurant was full by the time we were half way through our meal.

There's a number of menus to choose from for lunch; we opt for the smaller sets: the Sunsai-zen set at 4500 yen and the Goho-zen set at 3000 yen. The sets have a couple of courses in common such as the hors d'oeuvre platter; soup; main dishes; choice of rice or udon noodles; and dessert, however the Sunsai-zen set has a few extra items in between the soup and main dish. 

Hors d'oeuvre platter

The platter is a neat little seasonal selection of delicate starters, including grilled cheese aged in miso and saké lees; deep fried oyster flavoured with special sauce; fresh salmon roe of the season served with vinegar grated daikon; tender simmered herring with Arima sansho pepper; and sweet potato dressed with tofu cream sauce.

The next two dishes I'm not 100% sure on the details as they were part of my husband's set, and I was getting pretty full by this stage due to previously stuffing my face at the fish market. I believe the first dish is a medley of mushrooms and the second was an assortment of smaller sized plates, including sashimi and a braised beef and daikon.

Medley of mushrooms

Assorted dishes

Salmon gratin 

The creamy salmon gratin was served with shiitake, onion and cheese baked with special white miso bechamel sauce

Sanuki udon

The choice of rice or noodle dish comes at the end of the meal, just before desserts. For the menus we had, the choice was between Sanuki udon wheat noodles, served hot or cold, or steamed rice served with fragrant akadashi miso soup. 

I choose the Sanuki udon noodles served hot. The Sanuki udon is a type of udon noodle that is popular in the Shikoku region and is characterised by its square shape. 

Steamed rice with miso soup

Dessert of the day

The dessert of the day was the perfect way to cap off the meal, a delicate and silky smooth sweet potato pudding. 

I was very grateful that were lucky enough to have the opportunity to dine here given that we had no booking. The lunch set menus are great value compared to the more pricey dinner options. 

Kaishoku Michiba

Kanematsu Building
8F 6-9-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tokyo 104-0061

Open 11:30am to 11pm (10pm on Sunday and public holidays)

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Yakitori Jin - Haberfield, Sydney

There's a hidden gem of a Japanese restaurant in Haberfield and it goes by the name of Yakitori Jin. As you can tell by the name, it specialises in yakitori, chicken skewers grilled over hot charcoal. 

You'll find almost every cut of chicken there is, innards and all. 

Homemade gyoza

The homemade gyoza are juicy, perfectly pan fried and served with a zesty dipping sauce.

Chicken heart

This was my first time trying chicken heart, and it actually was tastier than I expected it to be. The texture is quite interesting with a spongy consistency. 

Mixed yakitori

This plate was off the specials menu and included a prawn skewer, wagyu skewer and a cherry tomato and camembert skewer. This also came with some chicken skewers (not pictured). It was a good way to taste a variety of the yakitori,

Meatball tsukune with egg

This is my must order dish at any yakitori place; I love the chicken meatball especially when it comes with a slow cooked egg that you can use as a dipping sauce. 

Yakionigiri with Jin soup

The Jin soup is a salty chicken broth and comes with meat balls. The most satisfying part of this dish is breaking up the wonderfully crispy rice ball and dunking it into the soup. 


As you can see the restaurant itself is tiny with a handful of seats so bookings are definitely recommended. I rocked up with a friend on a weeknight about an hour and a half before the closing time hence why we had the place to ourselves.

Highly recommended for an authentic yakitori experience. The staff are absolutely lovely and the space is set up with a bar area where you can watch the chef in action.

Yakitori Jin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato