Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ippudo Sydney, Sydney CBD

Despite being open since December 2012, it has already gotten serious attention across the blogosphere. I wasn’t sure why at first until I saw a friend getting tagged at Ippudo in New York. It has originated in Japan and has since expanded to New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul and Taipei. And now it has finally made tracks into Australia. From walking past there many times since its opening, there were lengthy queues during peak lunch and dinner hours. One night, we were craving for ramen and we were nearby Westfield Sydney so we all gave this a go. From what we've ate, it seems that Ippudo Ramen is not your average Japanese ramen place. In fact, the ramen they serve is not your usual street ramen that you would get from Gumshara, Menya, Ramen Kan, Ryo etc. 

Although we waited in line with the many other people there, we were able to get a table quite soon mainly because there is just three of us. I guess it is easier to get in if there is a smaller group. Another way to beat the queues is to get take away and sit at the tables outside of the restaurant in the food court. One thing I've noticed that distinguishes itself from other Japanese restaurants is the very noisy and very friendly staff either welcoming you or calling out that the food is ready. This is similar to what Chef Gallery does when you enter into that restaurant. It kinda makes you feel like a star when you get to your table. The interior decor does look fancy when you get inside and gaze at the curved wooden ceiling with dim lighting and a fancy selection of seating options.

I found Ippudo's pork buns to be lighter than I expected. The bun was light, soft and fluffy so you don't feel as bloated once you eat your bowl of ramen. It came with a thick and juicy slab of braised pork, a few slices of crunchy lettuce and a dab of the savoury Ippudo original sauce; which produced a burst of flavours on your taste buds. As you bite into the bun, the pork just melts in your mouth and before you know it, the pork bun was gone. So tantalising!

Ippudo Pork Buns ($4.00)

What makes Ippudo Noodles different from other ramen restaurants is their Hakata-style thin noodles. While the noodles are very thin, they still have that bite that you would usually get from ramen noodles. When ordering the ramen, the waiter asked if we would like the noodles to be soft, medium or hard. From my past visits, they usually recommend medium-hard which is fine for me. 

The Shiromaru motoaji is basically your classic tonkotsu ramen with a tonkotsu broth, thin noodles, pork loin, cabbage, black mushroom and shallots. If you want the same ramen with egg, then the Shiromaru tamago is the one to try. On the menu, this is classified as a 'Classic Hakata-style' ramen While it is a bit creamy and slightly rich, the broth is still thinner and lighter than the tonkotsu ramen at most other ramen restaurants (especially Gumshara) as on this occasion, I ate the pork bun and wasn't struggling post-dinner. I'd definitely recommend the one with the flavoured egg as it does add a good amount of flavour to the dish. 

Shiromaru tamago ramen ($17.00)

Shiromaru motoaji ramen ($15.00)

The Akamaru shinaji ramen is definitely something I don't see as much around the ramen restaurants. According to the menu, this is a 'refined modern-style ramen that has the tonkotsu broth with a special blended miso paste and fragrant garlic oil'. It's certainly an interesting one for those who are not familiar to ramens like this. When we were given this dish, the waiter suggested that we stir the miso paste into the noodles and broth to enhance into a colourful looking ramen dish. The pork loin was quite tender and easy to fall apart in the broth. Like the Shiromaru tamago ramen, this was also quite rich but not too heavy.
Collectively, the miso paste helped in delivering a vibrant image with a mouthful of flavours while mixing with the creamy textures from the tonkotsu broth so that the paste does not overpower the ramen. I enjoyed slurping up the whole bowl until the last drop.

Akamaru shinaji ramen ($16.00)

Akamaru tamago ($18.00)

You also have a choice of Karaka Men ramen, which is essentially the tonkotsu broth with spicy miso and ground beef. Definitely on my list to try next time.
If you prefer your dining experience more intimate and quiet, then this is probably not the best place. If you want a very social, crazy, jam-packed dining atmosphere then go ahead :P. While the ramen is more pricey than most other Japanese restaurants, it's still a different experience than you would normally get. The ramen is on a different par in terms of taste, texture and flavour. Plus, the staff was incredibly friendly and attentive to our needs. I will also recommend this for those who are not familiar or big fans of ramen. For example, CC was not a huge ramen fan (especially ramen with thick broths) before coming to Ippudo but after trying the Akamaru tamago, she was craving it for days! Definitely worth a try though I'd prefer if the prices are a tad cheaper given the many options for ramen in Sydney.

Ippudo Sydney
Level 5 Westfield, 188 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9573 0011 
Ippudō on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stra Pocha, Strathfield

Situated on the much, much less busy side of Strathfield, Stra-Pocha has been a popular Korean dining spot for the locals and young uni students when you feel like some fried chicken, Korean BBQ or hot pot. It is also far away from all the insane froyo action (which has now taken over the whole of Sydney by storm). I often have trouble trying to go from one side to the another without going into the station until CC showed me a passageway that leads to the other side nearby the station. Yup after all these years, I still don't know my way around Strathfield.

Complimentary condiments (incl. kim chi)

While there are several individual sized dishes, there are many meals that are aimed to share with a larger group instead of just one or two mates. We went with one of the popular choices on the menu which is the fried chicken with melted cheese on a paella dish-sized hot plate. IT WAS MASSIVE! The melted cheese wasn't as stringy as I hoped but I think we left it a bit too late to mix it around the chicken so the cheese probably dried itself out...oops. It certainly has a strong cheese scent. The meat of the chicken seemed to taste a bit dry but the batter retained its crispiness.

Fried chicken with melted cheese

And to top it all off, the waiter gave us a complimentary serving of more fried chicken! LOL! As if the ones we already had weren't filling enough.

Fried chicken

If I knew how big this will be, I probably wouldn't have ordered the seafood pancake - my usual Korean food favourite. It's much thicker than the ones I get at other restaurants. It appears to be stuffed like a stuffed pizza with bundles of seafood pieces sandwiched between the pancake batter.

Seafood Pancake

We both struggled and ended up getting take away at the end. The service was average but it's what we would usually expect at a Korean restaurant. We will come back to try the hot pot as I've heard that it's top notch at Stra Pocha. Will go easy on the food next time for sure or bring even more people to share the heavy dishes. A recommended place to go if you are keen on going to Strathfield just for Korean food since the menu does have a decent range of dishes that we are keen to try next time.

Stra Pocha
19-21 Everton Road, Strathfield NSW 2135
(02) 9745 5959

Stra Pocha on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Green Peppercorn / Sugarcane, Fairfield

After seeing so many restaurants over the last couple of years opening in Canley Heights, it breathes a sigh of relief to see a new restaurant in Fairfield and thankfully close to the station. Seriously, finding parking in the Heights is getting ridiculous! It is no surprise to see that it has attracted a lot of attention especially since it is owned by the same people who own Holy Basil. What makes Green Peppercorn/Sugarcane special is their massive dessert menu which includes creme brulee and fried ice cream. After seeing many peers uploading photos of those exquisite looking desserts, I knew I had to give this place a go. On the day we went, it was a Sunday lunch so there were plenty of seats for us though it did fill itself up later on. A few weeks later, I went back here for my birthday dinner with my folks (also on a Sunday) and the queues were definitely happening.

 Unlike their sister restaurant, the layout of Green Peppercorn is quite spacious although it still gets the crowd especially at dinner with groups of people waiting nearby the door for a table. It's also located close to Fairfield station which is good for those who don't have a car to get to any of the restaurants in Canley Heights. While you don't see anyone waiting outside and it seems oddly located next door to The Fairfield Hotel, when you go inside, it is a completely vibrant and buzzing atmosphere. Statues, ornaments and bird cages are abound in this restaurant's interior decor and there is even a tuk-tuk at the corner. There is so much to choose from the menu which goes on for many pages. The dessert menu alone is 4 pages long so it's no wonder that it took a while for us to choose.

The sausages have a savoury, herby and slightly spicy bite to it. While the outer casing has a grilled texture, the meat itself literally melts in your mouth. We made the most of the 'mum's special sauce' as well as the small salad that accompanied the dish. Word of warning for the spice noobs out there, the special sauce is actually pretty spicy!

Lao Sausages ($10.90)

I was keen to try the marinated ox tongue after trying some versions of this dish. It definitely has its distinction with its warm and grilled textures. It was also quite chewy as you bite into the meat. The small salad on the side helped our tongues once the special sauce becomes overwhelming.
Marinated Ox Tongue ($10.90)

As with the ox tongue, I am also eager to try out the satay chicken. This version is already presented with a lump of satay sauce coated on the chicken skewers. The chicken is quite juicy and grilled at the edges and the sesame coated satay sauce gave the chicken an extra boost of flavour. 

Satay Chicken ($8.90)

I love crispy soft shell crab but this is CRISPY! And I really love it! While it is lightly battered, it still retains a decent crunch that sustains throughout our lunch. Biting into the batter of the crab just takes you to another place with it's amazing crunch. The crab itself is well cooked for our liking. Also perfectly matched with the lemon wedge and the secret sauce.

Soft Shell Crab ($16.90)

As with other Thai restaurants in the past, we knew we need to try the Pad Thai to see if Green Peppercorn's version compares well. We thought it was definitely one of the better versions we have tasted. It was quite sweet, not too saucy and heavily cluttered with bean sprouts everywhere on the plate. If you like your added spices or more peanuts, a tiny bowl of chilli flakes and crushed peanuts are included on the side as well as a wedge of lemon for that zesty flavour. Great as a shared dish as it would be a struggle to finish on your own.

Pad Thai with Chicken ($12.90)

I didn't have much but it was very filling for 3 people to finish especially since we already ordered the pad thai. Nevertheless, this version of Thai fried rice is very flavoursome with fresh ingredients. I think next time we should just order more entree-sized dishes and one main course.

Khao pad/Thai Fried Rice with Chicken ($12.90)

Now to my favourite part of the dining experience! You know what that is! Green Peppercorn has a Dessert Bar with its own identity known as 'Sugarcane', where they have a generous selection of desserts from classic favourites like waffles and crepes to the more traditional desserts such as coconut sticky rice and pandan sticky rice.

We all opted to try their fried ice cream one to share just to see if it's as good as Holy Basil's infamous version. It looked almost exactly the same as Holy Basil's but CC and N absolutely loved this version. I only had a couple of pieces and it tastes very nice especially when mixed with the muesli and strawberry pieces as well as biting through the crepe layers to taste the ice cream. CC is still craving for GP's fried ice cream right now so they have definitely done a good job of this dish here.

Fried Ice Cream ($13.90)

We were originally planning to order the banana fritters but they were unavailable on the day we visited. The waiter said that we can try the one without the banana, which is called the 'Par Thung Go' - fried dough sticks with coconut pandan dipping sauce. When it arrived at our table, we thought this looks exactly like the fried doughnuts at Vietnamese restaurants. And they taste exactly like them too. While the sauces increased the flavour a bit, we thought that it was plain and nothing too exciting for our palates.

Par Thung Go ($12.90)

I absolutely adored the pandan creme brulee, which is Green Peppercorn/Sugarcane's signature dessert dish. The pandan flavour just gives it an extra oomph factor. I especially love the green egg rolls on the side along with a piece of strawberry to make the presentation more lovely. When you taste it, the creme brulee is sweet, creamy and light. I was saddened when I've finished this wide but shallow ramekin dish that I tried to scrap any leftovers. This is just so freaking amazing that you will NOT want to share this with your dessert loving friend. And damn it was heavenly man.

Pandan Creme Brulee ($14.00)

On my second visit, I ended up trying the Vanilla Creme Brulee. While this version is still a hit for my taste buds, its presentation didn't have much of a wow factor compared to the Pandan Creme Brulee. Nevertheless, the taste is incredibly divine and creamy and I was eager to scoop everything out by the end.

Vanilla Creme Brulee ($14.00)

While the service doesn't attend to your needs immediately (you have to forgive them though, it is a very busy and large restaurant with lots of people waiting for a new table), the food is definitely worth it and the prices are similar to Holy Basil (not too cheap but not too expensive). We will definitely come back to try more dishes especially the salads and the dishes under GP Specialties like the Banana Flower Salad. Not to mention having that creme brulee again!

Green Peppercorn
1 Hamilton Road, Fairfield NSW 2165
(02) 9724 7842

Green Peppercorn on Urbanspoon