Ume Japanese Restaurant

I adore the Sydney restaurant scene for its selection of quality Japanese cuisine, and Ume was no exception. Awarded one hat by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, the cosy restaurant on Bourke Street provided excellent service, food, and a delightful evening while my friend Alan and I exchanged stories from the past year.

I took this photo in the middle of a zebra crossing, much to Alan's fear of me getting run over.

I took this photo in the middle of a zebra crossing, much to Alan’s fear of me getting run over.

We opted for the 5-course set menu ($74), but I was able to switch my dessert for something chocolatey found on the 7-course menu. Some restaurants get grumpy at such requests and are unwilling to accommodate, so I was extra pleased in this regard. An extra reason to celebrate with my yuzu high ball ($16) and Alan’s Kaku whisky sour ($21)!

Yay Japanese cocktails!

Yay Japanese cocktails!

The first course was a truffle and shiitake mushroom Nagano-style dumpling, which was…amazing. Taste, texture, everything. When we finished ours, we definitely wanted more!

So yummy!

So yummy!

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Ramen and other goodies at Ippudo

As my Londoner and fellow-Aussie-expat friend Ardo put it, we must always do the noodle rounds when in Sydney. I couldn’t agree more, so we decided to hit Ippudo, a reliable international chain that satisfied my ramen cravings for the day (and then some). The closest branch for the both of us was Macquarie, which has a limited but solid selection of goodies.

Ardo went for the Karaka Men set, which came with karaage chicken and a mini salad ($20). The Karaka Men contains Ippudo‘s original tonkotsu (pork bone) broth with spicy miso and ground pork. It had been about a year since I’d had the beautifully deep-fried karaage chicken, and aaaaahhhhh…!

THIS CHICKEN.

THIS CHICKEN.

They had a student deal available to everyone in the whole entire world, so when I showed them my QUB card, I got a complementary choice of side, and went for the wee pork bun.

Deliciousness!

Deliciousness!

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Crazy lazy lunch at Sepia Sydney

As soon as I had my Sydney dates finalised, the lovely Anika and I started planning an epic meal–one that would require several months’ notice to gather the necessary funds. We decided on the 9-course degustation at Sepia, one of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide’s three-hatted restaurants, and Vittoria Coffee’s Restaurant of the Year in 2015.

Needless to say, Anika and I were both super excited about our Sepia Friday, and were pretty much ready for a three-hour meal that ended with us rolling down Sussex Street, happily watered and fed. And despite a few disappointments here and there, our overall experience was pretty amazing.

Before I start on the individual food and wine pairings (which were mostly hits, had some misses, and some super duper hits), I want to say that for me, fine-dining is about the entire experience, which includes attentive and knowledge waitstaff, the correct assortment of tableware, and an atmosphere conducive to the holistic enjoyment of dishes and drinks that have been thoughtfully created and presented, and should be consumed with the same level of respect and consideration. Additionally, when I’m forking out a decent amount for such an experience, I expect the restaurant’s quality to be much more than just the food–and unfortunately, I found the service rather lacking. The sommelier was the only person who gave us the impression of being amenable to answering our questions, whereas practically everyone else was quite brusque, impersonal, and  indifferent. I found this very disappointing, and though I tried not to be affected by the service, I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed my meal significantly more had the staff been more pleasant.

Right–onto the food! Sepia was pretty darn good in this aspect, and almost every dish had Anika and me making all sorts of inappropriate noises in public. The restaurant’s Japanese inspirations are quite evident in its emphasis on seafood, which suited us just fine because mmm, seafood… (Also, I feel I should apologise for some of the sub-optimal photos–my seat wasn’t exactly photography-friendly, and I kept trying to avoiding my camera’s shadow.)

For the amuse bouche, we had light and crispy crackers with a delicately seasoned tuna tartare, complemented by seaweed. This was our first gastronomical impression of Sepia, and we were both quite pleased.

Amuse bouche: rice crackers with tuna tartare.

Amuse bouche: rice crackers with tuna tartare.

1: Sashimi of Yellow Fin tuna, Jamon Iberico cream, avocado, baby radish, ponzu, pork crackling.
2004 Crawford River “Reserve”, Riesling. Henty, Australia.

I felt this was the weakest dish of the set. I wasn’t impressed by the quality of the tuna, and the overall flavours just didn’t do anything for me. I’d actually go as far as call it quite bland—the dish was certainly overshadowed by the Riesling, which was delicious.

1: Sashimi of Yellow Fin tuna

1: Sashimi of Yellow Fin tuna

2: Bonito, fried potato, poached quail egg, caviar, roasted chicken powder.
2013 Perticaia, Trebbiano Spoletino. IGT Umbria, Italy.

Whatever reservations I had from the first course were immediately blown out of the water with this beautiful concoction. Anika commented on the quail egg really doing it for her, but for me, I loved the combination of flavours and textures—taking the first bite was a joyous occasion that had me grinning in that dopey foodie fashion.

2: Bonito and co.

2: Bonito and co.

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ONE tea lounge & grill: game, set, matcha!

I can’t remember precisely when I first had Japanese green tea (also known as matcha), but I’ve always enjoyed the rich, slightly bitter flavour of the beverage. Better yet, I love green tea-flavoured sweets, desserts, and ice-creams, where the matcha often balances nicely with sugary noms. So when my friend and fellow foodie Ruby told me about ONE tea lounge & grill, a recent Japanese fusion addition to Sydney’s restaurant scene wherein most dishes contain an element of green tea, we both decided to check it out.

The restaurant’s interior is a little too “modern” for my tastes, with the music blasting away a little too loudly, but I’m weird and old-fashioned in that way. After Ruby and I got chatting about noms (and she showed me how to use my camera!), the music and ambience just melded into the background.

Yes, I know, this is what modern establishments are like.

Yes, I know, this is what modern establishments are like.

Om nom nom!

Om nom nom!

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