Tag Archives: Japanese

Brito Mart – Auckland, NZ

5 Mar

Nestled amongst industrial buildings and mid-rises in Auckland city, hidden from the waterfront, is Brito Mart, a great example of the burgeoning arts / fashion / foodie scene in Auckland.  Having traipsed around the city in the search for a trendier dining venue, my colleague (AC) and I arrived at Brito Mart train station without a clue as to where this supposed hipster nirvana could be found.  Certain that the SubWay and local train coffee shop were not the Brito Mart we set out to discover, we circled the vicinity several times and were just about to give in when a small black sign pointed us to a Vietnamese restaurant housed in an old industrial building.  And suddenly Brito Mart revealed itself.

Consisting of a handful of trendy restaurants, bars and independent boutiques, Brito Mart showcases the best of NZ talent, and whilst the idea is not entirely unique (cue the recent spate of ‘pop ups’, food vans, etc.) it was certainly a welcome discovery for AC and I as we were quickly tiring of our favourite haunts (e.g. The O’Connell Bistro – the rabbit pappardelle was a favourite!).

Having scoped out the offerings and keen to give our feet a rest (in particular for me the preggie lady) we settled on Ebisu – a modern Japanese joint housed in a cavernous warehouse space just across the road from the water.  Now you may think that Japanese is an odd choice for a pregnant lady, but having perused the menu there was plenty of cooked foods on offer (and thank you to AC who refrained from tempting me with my only pregnancy craving – raw fish).

Built mainly around the concept of izakaya style eating (adapted to modern NZ tastes of course) we shared agedashi tofu, soft shell crab, smoked eel sushi, pork belly and for dessert the most divine little apple donuts.  All came beautifully presented on an assortment of sleek japanese crockery – visually it was a win already!

Agedashi Tofu

Soft Shell Crab

Smoked Eel Sushi

The agedashi tofu was s real highlight – 5 perfect blocks of firm but soft tofu, lightly battered and with a drizzle of the sweet sauce (not swimming in sauce as is the commonly served dish in your average Japanese joint), topped with thin slivers of spring onion.

The soft shell crab was incredibly fresh and juicy.  Perfectly touched with a light smattering of batter (rather than smothered) and served with a light mayonnaise it needed nothing else – any more condiments would have ruined that beautiful crab flavour.

The sushi was average at best – although the other sushi and sash ini which we saw served at other tables looked fresh, the eel was not a strength on this night.

Pork Belly

Pork belly came as 5 cubes of tender (but not falling apart) blocks of meat with a light soy / teriyaki glaze.  Whilst it was tasty, the sauce overpowered the dish little and the consistency across the 5 cubes was not great.  My first piece was quite solid, not quite melt in the mouth but with a bit of bite to it.  My second piece was almost entirely fat – to the point of not being really consumable.

Apple Donuts

No meal is complete without dessert, but given we were both quite full, AC and I decided to share the apple donuts – and i am sure glad we did.  Piled high in a little bowl with a side of oozy chocolate sauce and ice-cream, the sugar covered golden parcels looked delectable.  Biting into the donut, one was surprised to find a juicy chunk of apple – with barely any dough at all.  The sweetness of the sugar coating and the slightly tart apple provided a fantastic flavour combination and made you feel just a little less guilty about consuming deep fried balls of dough.  I am not really one for desserts generally, but this really hit the spot!

Impressed by our first Brito Mart experience, AC and I ventured back the next night to try some more Auckland delights.  This night we settled on tapas at Agents & Merchants – although once again we had trouble locating it in one of the lane ways of the precinct (it almost made it feel like we were in Melbourne – almost).  Rustically fitted out with old wooden floors, booth seating and french louvered windows, Agents & Merchants is really more a bar serving up some good share plates. AC and I shared an assortment of small plates, including meatballs, arancini, grilled eggplant and the requisite bread and dips (pesto, olive tapenade and harissa) – and whilst nothing to write home about, it was a perfectly comfortable place to spend a couple of hours winding down.

Its a shame it took us so long to find Brito Mart – out f the 5 weeks spent in Auckland, we only managed to find it on the last two nights. Nevertheless its definitely worth a visit for a bit of NZ shopping, wining and dining!

Ebisu

116-118 Quay Street  Auckland, 1010, New Zealand

+64 9 300 5271

Agents & Merchants

Roukai Lane, 50 Customs St East, Britomart, Auckland

+64 9 309 5854

China Bar signature

19 Jul

Remember that episode of 30 Rock when Jenna comes back from a season break 30 pounds heavier after eating a whole summer of Pizza during her run on Broadway in ‘Mystic Pizza: The Musical.’?  Well, DDO didn’t just do a musical tv series.  Or anything to do with Pizza!  But this family dinner WAS most certainly inspired by something on TV (an extremely overplayed, over glamourised tvc on the Chinese cable channel TVB Jade), and left me  bellowing “ME WANT FOOOOOOD!!”

China Bar Signature

Said commercial was for China Bar Signature, an Asian food buffet emporium, offering every possible type of stereotypically eaten asian delight!   It’s a combination of clever marketing, hiring an amazing photographer and offering this “Eat As Much As You Like” haven of food that seems to have made this place EXTREMELY successful, and the whole experience – from booking our table, to the morning of our reservation, to before we arrived, to when we were 3 minutes late, and finally being shoo-ed out once our ‘allocated eating time’ was up – left us speechless… or was that the food coma…?

China Bar Signature is HUGE!  As you drive down Burwood Highway it’s hard to miss this giant food cube of a restaurant as it glistens on the corner lit up by the token red neons that China Bar is so famously known for.  You walk in to find a grand dining hall packed with people, packed with staff, and most of all PACKED with food.  As we are hurriedly seated (much to the distress of the maitre’d we are 4 minutes late, well not late but 4 minutes into our booking time range of 6:15 – 6:30) at our round table for 5 near the entrance.  In case you haven’t picked up already, there’s a reason this place is so damn big.  It’s because when you offer people too much food, with endless food varieties (…they even offered dim sum!  Ummm! Its 7:30pm…. ) people come in HOARDS!!

So in order to deal with the masses of hungry humans needing to stuff their face with limitless amounts of Asian themed fare (present company included…), the establishment has 2 seatings, 5:30pm and 8:00pm.  With our booking for 6:30 we are warned almost every 4 minutes leading up to 6:30 that we HAVE to leave at 7:45 and asked “are you sure that is enough time to finish eating…?”

Dim Sum assortments

Given the pressure from the restaurant to eat and leave, DDO and the Fam had devised some what of an eating plan of attack… which was almost immediately VITTO-ed by JP and I.  You see, N along with Mumsy and Dadsy thought it a good idea to tackle one station per person, to ensure we got to try as much as humanly possible without wasting time.  Clever idea.  But I was only interested in eating an hour and a half worth of unauthentic sushi and sashimi… and maybe a dumpling or 2 (coz eating Sui Mai at dinner times … like eating chocolate for breakfast…!!).  And JP was pretty much all over that Oystar bar (2 rounds worth) faster then we could pour our first cups of tea.

Seafood bar

So aside from the usual fried rice, noodle bar, steamed dumplings -which include xiao long bao and assortment of dim sum dumplings… which I think is PRETTY WEIRD but then again, so is the whole concept of this place! SO sparing judgment.

…there are stir fries,  a Japanese section, an Indian/Malaysian offering, a salad bar (uh… AS IF!!  needless to say that area was untouched on my part… ) Chinese roast meats – which were roast pork, pork belly and peking duck, and of course seafood bar.

Maki assortment

It didn’t take me long to beeline for the sushi bar (which was my favourite part of the TVC) with it’s brightly coloured maki rolls all lined up.  The flavours were pretty standard, but tasted acceptable considering the environment we were in…

Seared Salmon & Eel Sushi

My favourite was the seared Salmon and Eel Sushi, which I’m pretty sure I cleaned out at least a whole platter of each!  They were really fresh and surprisingly, the bed of rice it nestled on was far from being dry and rock solid like many other places that offer this type of sushi.  Although I did manage to try some of the other things, like satay, and peking duck, after about 3 rounds of sushi my stomach was so full of rice I could almost explode.  Thats the thing with “all you can eat”… there really is only so much you can eat, before you feel ill.  And I was certainly well on my way…

mums tailor made fishball noodle soup

Mumsy was probably the smartest with her eating choices and opted to head straight for the noodle man where she was able to tailor make her bowl with choice of noodles as well as assorted dumplings, balls and vegetable accompaniments.   Thankfully for us, her relatively un-overstuffed belly meant she still had room for dessert…

Coconut pudding

Mixed cakes

The dessert spread was just as impressive as the savory food.  So impressive in fact, there was a massive line that wrapped all the way around the dessert run and around the bend towards to restrooms. It may also have been something to do with the fact that it was getting close to that 7:45 cut off.

Offering everything from pastries and tarts, cheese and bread to sponge cakes, cheese cakes and puddings… Most impressively being the retail sized

Pastries & more sweets

freezer full of ice cream sticks!! (You know those one’s you always see at asian grocers that you never quite know if they are icey poles or ice creams… icey creams…?)  By this stage, JP had to excuse himself from being so full.  He literally got up and had to walk around the restaurant. Mum, N and I did a round of desserts for the table, and Dadsy stayed by the table … smart move Dadsy!!

Although we only returned with 2 small plates of an assortment of little cakes and something red beany, we all struggled to finish them, and even the mere hand to mouth action was too difficult.

Freezer full of ice cream poles (?)

We started as a troop bellowing “Me want FOooood!” with eye’s for food being bigger then our actual stomachs, and walked out (to a line of hopefuls outside, awaiting their glorious hour and a half of excess consumption) feeling completely defeated by the Food Monster that drew us in!

NOTE TO SELF: its much funnier experiencing the effects of over consumption through Jenna on TV Land than in real life… should also probably stop eating sundae’s whilst working out on the treadmill….

China Bar Signature

380 Burwood Highway, Burwood East  (03) 9887 8011

Shira Nui Saturday

31 May

Shira Nui

It’s a rare feat to get the DDO clan together for a lunch on a saturday. So this saturday called for something special. Thankfully Mumsy was on the case!! Within 2 minutes of hearing I had the Saturday off she’d managed to book us into the ever popular Shira Nui for lunch … even though she’d just eaten there the week before … And YES! I basically got DAILY reminders on how amazing, delicious and value for money the lunch specials were there! As much as I love Shira Nui, and do constantly dream about revisiting that Omakase Party in Pants experience that Shira Nui provided me on my first visit, having to drive all the way to the burbs and tackle the hoards of people that seem to constantly inhabit that shopping area, is kind of enough to make me put visiting the ever dashing Hiro Nishikura san in the too hard basket! But given that Mum managed to get us a table (can be at times a testing task getting a table at either lunch or dinner), I wasn’t about to resist the opportunity to have some of Melbourne’s best Japanese food… ESPECIALLY when cooked by the Dream Boat that is Hiro San (he’s like a Japanese Lone-Wolf cross Elvis… BABE. TOWN!)
We arrive at the bustling restaurant to the friendly chime of the staff “irasshaimase” as we are aptly seated, menu’s at the ready.

Having heard a whole weeks worth of raving from Mumsy about her favourite, Charashi Zushi Lunch (sashimi served on a bowl of sushi rice) I couldn’t resist ordering some Sashimi to try for myself. Plus, LOVES ME A MEAL DEAL! Aside from a wide range of sushi and sashimi lunch specials, there is also a whole page of warm offerings, ranging from tempura rice, fish head on rice to Hamburger with salad. The service here is quick and efficient (they are obviously all well versed in getting as many bums on seats in one day) without being pushy. Within 5 minutes of sitting down, and ordering some green tea our lunch orders are taken. There’s a lot riding on this Lunch thanks to the hype not only my Mother managed to create in 1 week, but also given it’s constant popularity (even for lunch). Shortly after we all order (something different for each of us… of course…) my belly awaits with excitement as our little assortment of appetizers begin to fill our table.

Clockwise (starting Top L) Pickles, Chuwan Mushi, Spaghetti & Mountain Yam cake

The Chuwan Mushi is ABSOLUTELY amazing! Perfectly silky, smooth but with just amount of hold to it, this is some steamed egg cooked to perfection. Don’t try this at home kids! Leave it to the experts. As we slowly munched through this little assortment of morsel delights and drank our miso (each meal comes with a miso, appertizers and rice & salad) Dadsy’s meal was the first to arrive shortly after.

Tempura Don Lunch ($18)

My Father is a man of pretty simple tastes. But offer Tempura or Pizza (…better still, Tempura Pizza) on a menu, and it’s a done deal! He will 100% order either of those every time! His Mixed Tempura was a nice mix of vegetables and 2 big prawns, nestled atop a serve of sushi rice and lightly drizzled with a tempura sauce. I kind of love that eating each piece of vegetable is like a deep fried Kinder Surprise… in that you kind of don’t always know what vegetable your going to be crunching on… in this case, I chose what I thought to be Purple sweet potato (which is VERY rare in Australia)…. turned out to be Taro! Oh well. It wasn’t enough to disappoint!! The delicately crispy outside, housed a fresh inside! Yummo! I thought I had food envy… until my Mum’s arrived.

Chirashi Zushi Lunch Special ($20)

OK! Finally get it! I didn’t even need to start eating this (…coz, well technically it wasn’t mine to eat… but I got to try some) and I’d already begun losing my shit!! There is something about that ‘so fresh it look fake’ quality of the sashimi, together with the picturesque presentation and seaweed seasoned sushi rice… Well RAVED MUMSY! This cold bowl of freshness more then lived up to it’s Hype! Not only was each slice of fish, vegetable and garnish of upmost freshness, but being a visual person, just seeing it all strategically placed to picturesque perfection put a GIANT smile on my dial!

Sashimi Lunch Special ($18)

Good thing mine came shortly after (as in good thing for Mum, for I would have inhaled her lunch…!) It doesn’t look like that much. But in addition to the extremely fresh sashimi, there were also chunks of sashimi in the salad (Thank GOD!). Again, freshness is the key to this dish’s success… that, and lots of wasabi (which had a wonderfully grainy texture to go with that punch in the nose feeling you get when eating it), and lots of ginger!

Last but not least, N’s meal arrived. She’d ordered the Hamburger from the warm offerings, which despite not making me gasp from it visual glory as the other dishes, it did instead due to it’s portion size! Certainly NOT your average sized Hamburger… But then again, Shira Nui is almost incapable of offering anything less then above average… (Oh my god! I’ve already become my Raving Mother…)

Hamburger ($17)

I only had half a slice, but the hamburger was lightly crumbed and pan fried without being too dry on the inside. Served along side the sesame dressed salad, a bowl of rice and all the appetizers for $17 – and yes… generally speaking $17 for what could possibly be a combination of minced ANYTHING and mushed into a patty would seem excessive – this could easily send your average sized human into Food Coma!

What began as a dreaded 23 minute drive to the burbs and a struggle to find a park, ended in 4 very satisfied set of tastebuds and even more satisfied bellies! Despite all my bitching and moaning about the travel/entering suburbia/listening to Mumsy’s constant raving and ranting, Shira Nui (and it’s Dream Boat of a Captain Chef Hiro Nishikura) is worth every mile travelled!

Matsu Hashi Sushi Boat

22 Apr

You know when you’re a little kid, and everything you own has, in one form or another, a novelty element attached to it? It’s almost as if having an object function in its own right isn’t enough to capture ones attention, like a curly straw or a those stupid sneakers with hidden wheels in them, or a bed that isn’t a bed unless it’s in the shape of a car,boat or castle.

Well I can safely say… not much has changed.  I still like to surround myself with things and experiences that have some sort of humor! A humor that I’d feared had LONG been lost (oh… now i’m talking meal time humor) since the changing hands of our favourite Japanese resturant Aya. Some of my fondest memories involve running amuck around that place, while the parents sat in the tatami rooms enjoying their food.  Taka San used to teach me origami and  let me help behind the sushi bar until of course… the piece de resistence… the sushi & sashimi boat platter was presented!  This was my favourite part of the night (besides dessert time of course)!

So Aya has long since changed hands, and it wasn’t until about 2 years ago, I thought the sushi & sashimi boat platter had sunk forever.  Until N moved to Northcote and after trying practically every eatery on High Street, they were forced to venture to the next suburb – and stumbled across Matsu Hashi.

Bean shoot appetizer

The thing we’ve come to love about this place – besides obviously this boat of seafood – is that it’s just good Japanese food, we can always get a table and the sushi/sashimi is always fresh.  There’s a wide sushi and sashimi offering, as well as your hot/cold entrees, main dishes, noodles/rice and hot pot (as in sukiyaki, shabu shabu and the like).  Oh and they are BYO, and don’t charge cake-age.  (Apparently charging anywhere between $4-$15 to cut and serve …nothing else… is becoming acceptable in many Melbourne establishments).  So YES!  Tonight’s impromptu sushi boat dinner was a WIN!

We arrived and were quickly presented our token appetizer.  This one is mostly beanshoots with a few – very few – shreds of capsicum, in a sweet vinaigrette.  It’s not the BEST appetizer i’ve had, but i’m not here for beanshoots!  So lets get to the good stuff.

Miso Soup

As we know why we are here, we get to ordering that first. One Deluxe House special for 2 people!   We also got some Miso Soup and entrees to nibble on before the main event sailed on up…

First to arrive was the miso.  Which funnily enough, came with sliced brown mushrooms and spinach, as opposed to the traditional Shitake Mushroom and Seaweed.  Bit of a surprise – not really authentic Japanese.

But it doesn’t taste bad, so i’m putting the ingredient substitution down to ‘humor’ of tonight’s chef. Next to arrive  is the Soft Shell Crab with Spicy Mayonaise.

The Crab is nice and meaty, and encased in a light batter that is freshly fried.  It’s crunchy, without overpowering the naturally sweet/fresh crab taste and the spicy mayonnaise is very subtle so it doesn’t swamp the fresh soft shell crab in creamy sogginess.  The spritz of fresh lemon is also an important touch.  Keeps the dish lively and cuts through the fat a little.

Soft Shell Crab $9.80

Very shortly after the Crab, came our other entree.  Being creatures of habit, whenever N and Mumsy eat here, there is always a vegetable element… and it is ALWAYS the Horenzo (spinach with sesame sauce).  Now, don’t get me wrong!  It doesn’t taste BAD… But seriously,it’s a pretty blande vegetable to have to get EVERY time!  Thankfully we went for Agedashi Tofu instead (for a change).

Agedashi Tofu $7.80

Not only is this the perfect vegetable substitute because a) it’s fried and Crispy skinned, and b) who doesn’t LOVE a pile of bonito flakes dancing gloriously before you devour it, but oh triple thread! The sauce to tofu ratio is just right.  Nothing worse then getting soggy fried tofu in too much sauce!  Not even dancing Bonito Flakes can save such soggy messes!

OK.  Entrees done, finally onto the real reason we are here!  We clear the table to make room for the wonderfully constructed boat of sushi & sashimi.

Deluxe House Special for 2

As you can see, it’s quite a lot fish.  As we ordered the 2 person serving, most of the sashimi pieces come in servings of 2, with sushi coming in 3.  So obviously besides the fact that this MASSIVE platter of raw fish arrives before us on a wooden ship, the quality of the sushi & sashimi is also fantastic.  (Each ‘Fish on Boat’ filling craving is satisfied by a slightly different offering of fish each time, chosen according to what is fresh on the day.)

It doesn’t seem like that much food for 3 people, but even I am surprisingly full and it was a bit of a struggle to finish the Boat.  Struggled, but Succeeded!!   So all that’s left is dessert – we are full, but dessert reserve is a separate stomach!  I normally like to order the Daifuku (Japanese Rice Cake with red bean filling) but give into peer pressure.

Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean paste $7.80

We all decide to go with a tried and tested classic, Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean Paste.  Eating this at the end of a meal is like eating a refresher towel!  It’s that perfect balance of that cold, bitter sweet green tea flavour with the texture of the red bean that sits so comfortably while helping with digestion in the belly… (aside from Origami, Taka San also informed me of the worlds best diet secret!  Green Tea Ice Cream aids digestion!!  Probably cannot be proven… but I don’t need much convincing.)

So all in all mission accomplished!  I got my dancing bonito flakes, a sushi platter served on a Boat, and the guiltless pleasure of Ice Cream to end our night of fine dining and humor!   Its nothing too fancy, but its consistent and familiar food.  I guess for some,  the child in us lives forever whether it be a distant memory, repressed or ever present. Lucky for me though, I can still rely on Matsu Hashi to get my novelty Giant Boat of Sushi… may the kid in us live forever!

Matsuhashi

388/390 Queens Parade

Fitzroy North

VIC 3068