Ramen of Late

I have finally updated my Ramen Round-Up post to include Yasaka on Liverpool Street.  And I’ve also had some new and different ramen of late.  But the deal for me is still as follows:

  1. Ramen is Japanese fast food, akin to a kebab – and like with kebabs, pretty much all ramen is tasty;
  2. Despite point 1, Ichiran is my 一番, but they don’t have it here;
  3. Still despite point 1, Ippudou is my Sydney ramen haunt of choice;
  4. Yasaka is a close second, and conveniently close to my office;
  5. The vegetable (but definitely not vegetarian) tonkotsu ramen at Ikkyuu is also amazing, even though not having cha shu in your ramen is probably a crime again Instagram; and
  6. I’m not bothered about the soft-boiled eggs (thus breaking another Ramen Rule, as per point 5 above).

With that in mind, here’s three more tasty bowls of tonkotsu!

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Finally got down to O-san in the Dixon Street food court. This was the standard tonkotsu with extra kikurage mushrooms and a dash of chilli. Good stuff, no complaints. Particularly nice cha shu.  The dingey basement-level foodcourt was happy teenage nostalgia for my mate; and his reaction to accidentally eating a giant spoonful of raw garlic in his ridiculous Sumo ramen was comedy gold for me!

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Seasonal special at Ippudou Central Park. While I enjoyed the ever-wonderful Akamaru Shinaji, Hubby tried the Tokushima Niku Soba.  Misleading, as it was definitely ramen not soba. But it was nicely flavoured with soy sauce, topped with gyuu-don style stewed beef, an onsen egg, and prettily shredded chilli. The tonkotsu base was lightened up with chicken broth, so it was a veritable farmyard in a bowl.

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Meanwhile, I had the fishy one at Ramen Zundo.  The Zundo Light Niboshi is their lighter soup option (the tonkotsu/ chicken stock mix) which is strongly flavoured with dried anchovies.  Ramen Zundo is not my tonkotsu ramen of choice – though the convenience, décor and side dishes are plusses – but I had a free bowl to claim, and one can’t say no to free ramen, especially on a cold, rainy day.  The fragrant (wimps might say pungent) niboshi was definitely a winner for me – I’d order it again.

Pancakes, Twice

Recently I went to Pancakes At The Rocks for a 15-year-old’s birthday brunch. The last time I’d been to Pancakes At The Rocks was for a 14-year-old’s birthday party. When I was also 14. There is definitely an age for Pancake At The Rocks… or is there?!

Despite not being in the target age group, I thoroughly enjoyed my Bananarama (hold the ice-cream and add a chocolate pancake because chocolate pancake).  I also enjoyed most of Hubby’s overly-ambitious third pancake, and a goodly portion of the 15-year-old’s stack too.  Pikers.

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The fact that they sell their just-add-water packet mix (“Take The Taste Home!”) strongly suggests that Pancakes At The Rocks does not have a team of sous chefs cracking eggs 24/7 (as the restaurant proudly proclaims on its business card, “We Never Close”).  But their baking-powder-boostered shake ‘n’ pour offerings are, nonetheless, undeniable tasty (and strongly appeal to one’s inner teenager).  And whilst the pancakes were a bit fake, I was impressed that the cream was proper thick dollop-y cream, not a squirty one from a can.  And the grilled bananas and childhood nostalgia butterscotch sauce were the perfect old school accompaniment – no salted caramel or dulce du leche here!

Whilst I felt slightly ill after my excessive fluffy pancake consumption, as soon as this feeling wore off I immediately wanted them again (thank you, super high GI food item). I need to find more teenagers (or stoners) to justify a return visit soon :)

The following weekend, however, I made proper and rather wholesome wholemeal ricotta pancakes at home.  These had 2 eggs – whites and yolks separated, whites beaten ’til fluffy – plus smooth light ricotta and wholemeal self-raising flour, and I served them with extra ricotta and fantastic local honey (purchased directly from a farmer at the Royal Easter Show).

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I unhelpfully cannot remember the exact quantities, as I make these ones not infrequently and just know when the mixture is ‘right’.  I probably used a cup each of flour and skimmed milk, a couple of tablespoons of ricotta, and a big blob of honey.  And the eggs yolks.  Mix all these together very well, then fold in the fluffy egg whites.  Cook them in a frying pan sprayed with canola oil.  So healthful.  (Although on reflection, wholemeal flour on its own can be a little stodgy – half white half wholemeal is probably the better bet).

For more pancake recipes (with actual quantities provided, promise) here are my old posts on Blueberry Pancakes with Bananas and Banana Pancakes with Blueberries AND BACON!

Criniti’s, Darling Harbour

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I will admit to Sydney snobbery in this post.  I found myself in Darling Harbour on a Friday night, wanting to see the Vivid Festival lights.  I was very sceptical about dining there.  My memories of dining at Darling Harbour are confined to Happy Meals and pick & mix sweets at the Lolly Pop Shop as a child in the early ’90s…

But Criniti’s came with a recommendation from a foodie friend, and had already been road tested by Rasta to rave review.  I was still a tad sceptical of the Darling Harbour tourist factor and the far-too-long menu.  Soon, however, my prejudices were happily overcome – like Mr Darcy’s by Miss Bennet, and vice versa – by the completely delicious food.  Our choices were all wonderful, contrary to the truth universally acknowledged about ridiculously long menus.  The wood fired pizza was utterly fabulous, the handmade pasta was skillfully silky, and the salad was a meal in itself.  The scotch-egg-style fried olives were an unnecessary but tasty starter (thumbs up for the moreish marinara sauce) and the suggested chianti was indeed a good suggestion!

I am seriously considering returning with a large group to get a THREE METRE LONG pizza.  We saw the 1m versions being devoured by families with kids, but the 3m challenge would be jolly good fun (with more of that chianti).

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PISTACCHIO pizza. In Italian it has an extra ‘c’. As a pizza flavour it had san daniele prosciutto, mozzarella, ricotta, pesto, rocket, semi-dried tomatoes & grated pista[c]chio.  Totally unusual; seriously yum.  The dough was as good as at the real deal Neapolitan-certified places – salty and toothsome and charred just the right amount.  The toppings were generous without being silly.  And the pistachio/ prosciutto/ ricotta combination was phenomenal!

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Light-as-a-cloud housemade gnocchi with creamy gorgonzola sauce (pancetta optional – obviously we opted in).  Not the prettiest picture, but a winning dish – good to share rather than die from a coronary, though.  This was the entrée size and we struggled.

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We decided to have a salad rather than another pasta, but the Fichi or fig salad was almost as full on as having that third main! Another slightly odd-sounding combination which was executed very well: figs, rocket, walnuts, pine nuts, grapes, fresh ricotta, and a honey balsamic vinaigrette

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We sat on the balcony enclosed with a fine mesh screen, which gave an interesting arty effect to all my photos of the Vivid light show and fireworks. And I braved the scary Ferris wheel after dinner!


Petty Cash Café, Marrickville

Petty Cash Café is opposite Enmore Park. It pretty much caters to everyone and everything you would want when brunching with a group. Dogs, kids, prams, vegetarians (and flexitarians – I am embracing being one of those), vegans, coeliacs, and food bloggers. And people who want all-day breakfast (i.e. our party of 5, plus dog and pram). All those options are safe. The menu is worryingly huge but everything we had was very well executed. Excellent produce – I was very taken with the smoked salmon, and others were mad about the bacon. Nice coffee. Crazy milkshakes. Friendly vibe, no fennel pollen, and no pretence. Yay!

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Cheeky Nando’s.

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Snickers frappé. Woah.

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They offer Eggs Benedict, and also ‘Flaming Victoria’ with baby spinach, dukkah & harissa mayo on sourdough. Then there was a combo of the two of them – yep, hollandaise AND mayo – called the ‘Eggs VB’!

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Cherry Ripe frappé vs Snickers frappé. Both really designed for 10-year-olds. Shared by a table of grown-ups. (And a lovely smoked salmon Eggs Benedict in the background.)

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Eggs VB with smoked salmon. Huuuge. Perfectly poached eggs and top quality salmon. It was the Breakfast That Went On. And On.

Petty Cash Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Bach Eatery, Newtown

The Bach Eatery is at the southern end of King Street, near Earl’s Juke Joint, Bloodwood and the Newtown Social Club.  I assumed it was ‘bark’ but apparently it’s ‘batch’, which is apparently Kiwi for a beach house.  Now the hibiscus print/ surfboard-in-corner/ summer days décor makes perfect sense, ditto the focus on New Zealand produce on the menu!  Beached as, bro (etc).

The elegantly concise menu is designed for sharing.  The flavours are simple and honest, and the servings sizes are just right. We shared a small selection of completely delicious things, and came away very happy and very keen to come again.  I ♥ NZ.

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Thirlmere chicken liver pâté with red cabbage and feijoa chutney, and not quite enough toast (but that was cool bro, we asked and got more).  Gorgeous silky pâté – we spied plates of it coming out of the kitchen when we walked in, and immediately went, “WANT THAT ONE!”

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Healthy greens! Broccoli with almonds. And a giant hidden pool of butter underneath. Mmm. And a darling salt dish.

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The perfect amount of crispy crackling’d pork belly for two (my “flatlay” – new word for the week – doesn’t betray how generous this dish was). This special of the night came with a pile of buttered gnocchi, watercress purée and those pretty baby carrots.  And cute mini tongs for serving.  Choice.

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So happy with this dinner! The long rectangular plates are a tad foolish, but the combination of pork, gnocchi and veggies, with the excellent pâté starter and a couple of glasses of tasty Marlborough pinot noir, couldn’t have been a nicer meal if it tried.

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Chur, bro.  Next time I’ll wear my jandals.

Bach Eatery on Urbanspoon

Café Cre Asion: The Best Muffins in Sydney

Those of you who follow me on instagram will have seen my multiple posts from Café Cre Asion, aka the Secret Japanese Cafe of Cuteness. It’s hidden down Alberta Street, behind Liverpool Street, under a construction site, near the AFP. Basically the last place you’d expect to find a kawaii kafe selling housemade macarons and granola; beautiful Japanese ceramics and woodworks; three grades of sencha, and a matcha latte for luck; with the coolest and most space-efficient interior design this side of Shimokita.  Plus excellent coffee, a short but sweet lunch menu and Sydney’s Best Muffins!

(I confess: I’ve only had the coffee and the muffins.  I can’t get past their complete deliciousness.  And I can’t get in the door at lunchtime; it gets too full.  But I will have me a fancy green tea and a smoked salmon, soft boiled egg & pickled fennel sandwich yet!)

The coffee beans are from Single Origin, and I swear the lovely Cre Asion folk make the nicest take-away coffee I’ve had since being back in Sydney (bar Campos from Campos HQ).  Take-away coffee is never going to be as good as proper sit-down coffee because you’re drinking it out of a sippy cup like a toddler. And waxed cardboard ain’t warmed porcelain. But the take-away coffee from Cafe Cre Asion is somehow always a complete joy.  One of these days I’ll surprise them and order myトール無脂肪ラテ、お持ち帰りで in Japanese ☺

As for the muffins, they’re freshly baked on the premises (the oven takes up a good third of the tiny kitchen space) and just incredible.  Crunchily crusted but fluffy inside like a Japanese chiffon cake; buttery not oily; and with the most stunning flavours.  Much thought has clearly been put into getting the combinations right, and the filling-to-cake ratio perfect.  I think I have now tried the whole range. おいしい!!

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Peanut Butter. With salted peanuts on top. The most heavenly sweet and savoury combination. Not peanut-butter-&-something. Just pure, unadulterated ピーナツ.

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Granola plus surprise berries. I expect this was the housemade granola – it was studded with huge nuts and dried banana chips. Yes please. Such whole grains. Very health.

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Blueberry Cream Cheese and aforementioned excellent take-away coffee. This beauty came with an apology that it had cream cheese in it! Madness!

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I finally had the elusive, slightly scary-looking Green Tea

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…or rather, 抹茶クリームチーズあんぱん! Bitter green tea, sweet red bean paste and tangy cream cheese in perfect harmony. But instead of the fluffy nothingness of a regular sweet bun, you got the Café Cre Asion marvellous multi-textured muffin.  A mind-blowingly good take on an Asian bakery standard.

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Banana, Coconut & Dark Choc Chip. Naughtily tropical. Excellent to dip in coffee.

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And my new favourite thing in the world, the Spiced Apple & Ricotta. Beneath the dark sugar-coated crust is a large piece of cooked apple spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and something I can’t put my finger on but makes me want to put more and more of these in my mouth. The blob of sweet ricotta renders this a muffin to eat with a spoon. The first time I tried this one it’d just come out of the oven. I nearly died of happiness at my desk!

Café Cre Asion on Urbanspoon