The Everest Kitchen, Marrickville

One of my favourite activities, like all kids these days, is travelling. And whilst travelling to Bali and getting drunk under the full moon on a beach and waking up the next morning with a cracking headache has its merits, I’m talking of the kind of travel where you throw caution to the wind, don’t look back over your shoulder and head to the great unknown – the countries with few westerners, even fewer english speakers and lots of weird and wonderful experiences.

Having had a recent spate of itchy feet for a good old travel abroad, stymied somewhat by my depressing annual leave and bank balances, I grabbed a dining friend and off we set, towards the setting sun, to the Everest Kitchen in Marrickville.

For a Saturday night, the atmosphere was worryingly subdued, but nevertheless, we were seated in the nicely Nepalese-themed restaurant. Once again, the mistake was made in nominating me as the designated dish chooser, which due to my excitement in trying new things invariably results in gross over-ordering.

We kicked off the night with an entree of six buffalo momo ($9). We’d demolished half by the time I remembered I was in the business of blogging. They looked fairly gyoza-like although were steamed, not fried. Having only had momo once previously, many years ago in the cultural epicentre that was early 2000s Brisbane, I had a different image in my head of a palm-sized circular, taller, very meaty dumpling, but what we ate at Everest Kitchen wasn’t bad. The filling was tasty, and went well with the cooling coriander-y dipping sauce, although I can’t say that the flavour of the buffalo was particularly striking. The pastry had a sufficiently chewy texture, though.

Mo' momo

Mo’ momo

We also had the potato cake ($7), which although fairly standard, was demolished before I had a chance to photograph.

For the mains, we went with a gargantuan plate of Everest grilled lamb ($18). Majority of the pile of lamb was very tender (although there were a couple of grissly pieces that involved animalistic chewing somewhat reminiscent of Homer Simpson wrestling a pork chop – you know what I’m talking about:

Hey, that's my pork chop

Hey, that’s my pork chop

Nevertheless, the lamb had a nice grill-y flavour and was a very generous serve. I’m not exactly sure what was so Everest-y about it, though. And guys – if you’re going to go with the side salad, don’t pull it from some container that’s been sitting around, drowning in dressing for the last 8 hours. The slightly spicy, almost capsicum-y sauce to the left was a nice accompaniment.

Everest lamb

Everest lamb

As if that wasn’t enough, I had spotted the table next to us scoffing down a platter of several dishes ($23). We clearly had to get this

 

Traditional Nepalese dinner set

Traditional Nepalese dinner set

I felt it was a pretty decent representative sample. Clockwise from the suspicious greeny liquid to the back – a dhal which was disappointingly underwhelming, although which had a nice texture in that you could still tell the lentils existed. Then, pappadums – pretty hard to stuff those up. The forest green veg was next – I think these were mustard leaves and as anyone who knows what hell my parents inflicted on me throughout my childhood with their incessant love of mustard plant…I’m not a huge fan. They were cooked well, though, retaining their crunchy texture. Next up, a red plate of a pickly chutney of some sort. I was expecting it to be a little punchier, but it had great flavour. There was a cooling yoghurt next – nothing too exciting, but was a nice contrast. Then a very tender chicken curry with a decent serving of the meat – this was probably my favourite of the plate. Last up, a bamboo curry, which was actually pretty good. Not particularly hot, but retained the nice flavour and texture of bamboo shoots.

That was about all we could fit in and with satisfied stomachs, we rolled ourselves out the door and into the night. The Everest Kitchen was nice, homely, had good service and the food was quite good, if not a little patchy in some areas – but hey, doesn’t that all add to the charm?

The Everest Kitchen
314 Victoria Road, Marrickville

Food: 6/10
Drinks: a can of lift is hard to mess up, although they did have a couple of lassis available
Atmosphere: 7/10 – a nice, non-tacky selection of photos, prayer flags and other Nepalese ornaments
Recommend it? I actually think it’d be a cool place to grab a bunch of friends and have a bit of a birthday feast. It’s not too expensive, the look of the place is nice, the service is good. The food is generally pretty good, though not outrageously overwhelming.

 

The Everest Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

Hikaru Japanese, Newtown

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a nice connection with Japan throughout my life. When I was but knee high to a grasshopper, a Japanese kindergarten (yes – weirdly niche) opened up across the road from where I lived, so naturally that’s where I went. Our family formed a close bond with the Japanese chap that ran the place and he taught all of us kids the wonders of how to do cartwheels, eat raw eggs, balance a chair on one finger and do handstands. Oh, I also learned a bit of Japanese too, and this cool girl came over from Japan and homestayed with us for a little while. In primary school, I learned a bit more Japanese too and then in high school I was fortunate enough to go over there for a few weeks on a school trip. Last year I was lucky enough to go over there again for brief week of snowboarding a Tokyo-ing. And what’s more, I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with a family that loves Japanese food as well. I still remember rolling little sushis as a kid, getting rice stuck on the sushi mat, not rolling tight enough so the filling fell out, and Dad just sighing… 🙂

Anyway, the point is I freakin’ love Japanese food. I love the korokke, I love the ramen, I love the curry, I love the sashimi, I love the freshness, I love the cuteness – everything.

I’d often walked past this little Japanese joint, walking along King Street in Newtown. It’s just off the main drag and doesn’t look like anything fancy. But having had some of my best dining experiences in underwhelming-looking joints, my dining friend and I decided to give Hikaru Japanese a try.

Although the restaurant was busy when we got there at about 8pm on a Friday night, the waitresses were super polite and quick to fit us on a (really) little table in the (really) little restaurant 🙂

We started off with a couple of Japanese beers – obviously – a Kirin and an Asahi (about $8 each). Food-wise, well, we went a little mental. I won’t lie about that. As I was looking through the menu, I was thinking, “wow, if the dishes are this cheap, they’re definitely going to be really small” – boy are my estimation skills out these days.

First off the mark was edamame. Despite being what is essentially a plate of boiled beans, I actually really like the slightly salty little morsels with a nice, cold beer. For a mere $5 or so, these soybeans were a steal.

Foggy picture, but you get the idea

Next up, gyoza. I really enjoy a good gyoza – juicy, flavourful filling, steamed to perfection on the top and fried to a crisp finish on the bottom. The filling of these gyoza was so-so – nothing to write home about. But the biggest killer was the fact that they were totally fried – as in, deep fried. I get that there are different interpretations of gyoza – so I think this was more of a personal preference thing as opposed to a “they got it wrong” thing. I also didn’t love the generous smear of of mayo on top – it was a little bit of overkill. At a mere $5 or so for 3, it was again, a steal.

Gyoza – the garden salad underneath was kind of weird

Korokke. Now, I appreciate that this is a grossly westernised distortion of what should be elegant, fresh Japanese cuisine. But there ain’t nothin’ like a good old hunk of has brown, whatever the culture. A korokke is essentially the hash brown of Japan, but better, including a few specks of grated veg and meat thrown into the mix. From my hazy, hazy memory, this was approximately $6. Flavour-wise, it was good. Texture-wise, I have to admit I’ve had better in terms of crunch – this one was a little crunchy, but mostly just warm.

Korokke! (as in, croquet) – again with the sort of garden salad.

It was around this point that my lack of estimation skills became vividly apparent. Two dishes in and I was feelin’ pretty full, and realised we were about a quarter of the way through my lengthy, lengthy order (why do people even let me keep ordering??). I failed to take a picture, but the next dish up was the entree-sized mixed tempura (I think it was about $9). As one of the larger sized entrees I’ve come across, we were presented with deliciously lightly battered (but appropriately tender) brocolli, pumpkin, sweet potato, prawn, fish and calamari – about one of each – along with the requisite tempura dipping sauce. It was actually pretty good! The batter was light and the oil didn’t taste strong/old and it wasn’t too greasy. All of the components were well cooked – the seafood was still plump and juicy. Pretty good!

We also ordered sushi – two of my favourites (and altogether a bastardisation of Japanese cooking, again) – chicken katsu and tempura prawn. Below is a picture of the tempura prawn, topped with slices of avocado. Both were so good – crispy, perfectly cooked, a good rice-to-filling ratio and reasonably priced at $9.80.

Tempura prawn roll

Just as I was undoing the top button of my jeans, I realised “oh shit” there’s another dish. Chicken yakisoba. The dish was reasonably tasty, despite me not being a huge fan (I can’t get past those insipid maggi-inspired noodles). But the chicken was tasty and the vegetables were well cooked and dispersed. Unfortunately I was in a huge food coma by this point, so I picked around a bit before giving up. A huge serving at about $12.

Chicken yakisoba

All in all, I was very impressed with it all. The meals came out quickly (too quickly – but that was really our own fault for the over-ordering). The service was super polite even though the restaurant was packed!

Hikaru Japanese Restaurant
134 King Street,
Newtown NSW 2042

Food: 8/10
Drinks: we just had a couple of beers really, although there were a handful of sake options
Atmosphere: 7/10 – cute and Japanese, but a little cramped (I think we were approximately 7cm from the next table)
Recommend it? Yes, for a cheap, cheerful, filling feed – bring a few friends, share a few plates and head down the street for a good night out.

Hikaru Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Spanish Fly, Randwick

I once went to Spain, back in the day. It was after a set of my uni exams and I was on exchange in England and everyone else was either busy, boring, studying or a combination of the three so I decided that for a brief weekend I would nip on down to Barcelona to check it out. I caught a train out of the busy, bustling city one day, out to this beachside town called Sitges. After many hours of wandering aimlessly, looking at beautiful, old crumbling buildings and wading in the warm waves, the hunger that had been brewing in that tummy of mine came to a head. As if the town of Sitges knew that my hunger was rampant, it provided a cute little tapas bar in my very path. I sat there for hours, talking (badly) in Spanish to the waiter, taking photos of the passing people and ordering plate after plate of delicious tapas. I enjoyed so much the pure flavours that came out of the meats, the cheeses, the seafood. It was nothing fancy – the whole premise of the bar was an out-of-the-way family run tapas bar for the locals. But everything was fresh. And the flavours of the ingredients – of the meats, for example – came out so vividly. As I watched nearby tables talking and laughing and sharing these little, beautiful plates of deliciousness over glasses of red wine, I came to appreciate just how much the humble tapas contributes to this amazing social movement. I drank my wine and finished my plate and as the sun dipped behind the old, crumbling buildings, I caught a train back into the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.

Anyhoo – through my dining friend, I decided to attempt to re-live this beautiful moment (hey – it’s a mission to get back to Spain) There are a number of tapas restaurants around “The Spot” in Randwick – El Bulli, L’il Darlin, to name a couple. But being fans of the independent, non-chain restaurant, we ended up at the Spanish Fly. We got there at about 7pm on a Friday night and it was packed.  Seated at the bar, it unfortunately ruined any chance of a romantic evening, but at the delicious smells wafting around, we were happy to take it.

Starting off, we went with a jug of sangria. I’ve gotta comment The Spanish Fly on their Sangria, it was cinnamon-y, nutmeggy, winy and not wimpy. It was strong without being overpoweringly wine-y. It wasn’t filled to the brim with those little bits of fruit that ruin my delicious mouthful. It was just tasty, spicy, heady sangria.

For our plates of deliciousness, we went with the fried zucchini flowers, filled with ricotta and sat upon a red capsicum sauce. I felt that the batter was ever so slightly thick and oily (not in the “corner store battered fish” sort of way; more in the “compared to tempura” sort of way). The capsicum sauce on which it sat has a nice strong flavour – not too spicy – but like a roasted capsicum that meant to be there. The filling of the flowers was neither here nor there; I couldn’t really detect anything exciting. But with a bit of capsicum smooshed onto it, the combination was crisp, fresh and nicely flavoured.

Crunchy, crispy zucchini flowers

Next up, calamari. Without having actually read the description, I automatically assumed that the calamari would have been deep fried to crisp perfection. It wasn’t. DF wasn’t as impressed with the dish that appeared in front of us, but I thought it was a nicely different dish to the usual hum-drum deep fried squid. In front of us appeared a generous mound of calamari rings, sauteed in almost a caponata – it had been tossed in a tomato-y, olive-y, eggplant-y, chunky sauce. The calamari was tender, the sauce was spicy and well seasoned and I didn’t mind it at all. It wasn’t a wholesome, fulfilling dish,  but light and fresh isn’t so bad.

Calamari – fresh is best

We also had chorizo, as I guess you need to get to complete a tapas meal. We were served a – again – generous portion of thick slices of chorizo (by the time I got around to taking the photo, we’d eaten most of it), sitting atop the zucchini flower’s capsicum sauce, and a healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil. I have to say that the chorizo could have done with a bit more time over the flame to get that delicious caramelised, char-grilled surface; instead, the chorizo was cooked so-so, but sort of dry.

Chorizo!

Last up, mushroom ravioli. Ok, so it’s not spanish per se. But we were presented with a cute little terracotta bowl of 6 beautiful morsels of ravioli. I actually think this was the highlight of the night. Mushrooms can often be an underwhelming, flavourless effort to inject some form of salty flavour into a vegetarian dish. But here, the Spanish Fly performed admirably. The ravioli was delicate, the mushroom flavour really came out, and each piece was seasoned well. And the sharp parmesan that topped the dish was crumbly and strong, if a bit light on the coverage.

Mushroom ravioli

All up, I had a good time at the Spanish Fly. Tispy from that delicious sangria and comfortably full, I noticed the many groups of tables nearby, talking and laughing, sharing little plates bursting with flavour over glasses of wine. And I realised that despite not being in the beautiful beachside town of Sitges, the same movement carried across the kilometres, through the waves and into the Spanish Fly in Randwick.

The Spanish Fly
35 St Pauls Street
Randwick NSW 2031

Food? 7/10
Drinks? 8/10
Atmosphere? 9/10

The Spanish Fly on Urbanspoon

Kozy Korean, Sydney

Last year I went snowboarding over in Japan for a few weeks. And whilst the snow was epic, and the people were epic and the cute little vending machines were epic and trying to say “I need the strongest prescription painkillers you have for my agonising back” based on year 10 Japanese was…hilarious, and the cold was…cold, I have to say that one of my best memories from the trip was discovering this hidden Korean BBQ joint that a friend told us about. The whole concept was fantastic – I mean, it was great that it was an all-in eat and drink-fest, but it had these cool little ordering machines where you type in a number and then 5 minutes later a new plate of meat magically appeared. And it tasted bloody good as well.

Anyway, I massively digress. The point is, my universal love of Korean BBQ was reignited a few weeks ago when a friend and I visited Kozy Korean in Sydney. Now, I work down the end of town that has approximately 48 Korean BBQs per square inch, and the couple that are super well-known also bring with them a 45 minute wait. We decided to take a total stab in the dark and check out the Kozy. The restaurant looked a little sparse at first, but after taking comfort in the couple of tables of Koreans already there, the restaurant soon filled.

I think we both resigned ourselves to the fact that there would be no shame in terms of just how much we would eat. We just piled in. We decided on a bit (a lot) of pork, a bit of beef, a HUGE kimchi pancake and a kimchi pork stew-type dish. We also ordered what I like to call “mystery drink”. Ok, it was actually Soju, and sort of tasted like slightly weaker vodka – but it was definitely an acquired taste.  I have to admit that I’ve been outrageously busy studying for a couple of exams so I may or may not have forgotten some of the specific details…

Not long after our table’s BBQ was lit, the food started coming. First, the fixins – kimchi (of course), crunchy little beansprouts, radish, potato/carrot.

Bite-sized delights

And then the meat – pork belly and marinated beef.

And that was about half of it…

And then more beef:

Mooooooooooo

And then the biggest Kimchi pancake I’ve ever seen:

Kimchi pancake

In my excitement over…cooking my own food…I forgot to take a photo of a delicious stewed pork and kimchi dish – the pork was falling-of-the-bone tender with a tiny bit of spice – very comforting.

Basically, it was all delicious. The cuts of meat weren’t the most tender, but the pork and one of the beef dishes were nicely marinated. And the novelty of cooking my own meat on my own little BBQ in front of me never wears off. The kimchi pancake was different to the usual hum-drum shallot pancake and I thought it was interesting and tasty. I don’t know exactly how much kimchi was in there – it wasn’t an overly strong taste though. And too big for the both of us to finish.

Look, it’s not a place for a first date (do you really want to know that he or she has the ability to stuff down a kilogram of meat in one sitting that early on in the relationship?). But it’s a cool place to go with a bunch of friends, have a few cheap beers, a few plates of meat, a bit of cooking, a lot of laughter and a good little night.

Kozy Korean BBQ
7 Wilmot St, Sydney NSW 2000

Food? 5/10
Drinks? 6/10 – there were a few Korean items I’d never heard of, plus about 6 different sorts of Soju (for us, it was more a …point and see…when we picked ours)
Atmosphere? 5/10

Poco’s Cantina, Randwick

Mexican. Or more correctly, Tex-Mexican. Is there anything better? The answer is a resounding, compounding, not-astounding no. I freakin’ love Mexican. Which made it all the more epic when my dining friend and I went to check out Poco’s Cantina in Randwick last week.

The menu is brief – all of the usual suspects are there – enchiladas, tacos, burritos, fajitas, nachos, chilli. With every new dish, my drool intensified. Not five minutes after we were seated, a cute little container or corn chips and salsa were plonked in front of us. The salsa was in a chip bowl – epic. Tacky, but epic. Observe:

Chip bowls make everything great

We started off with a couple of bevvies – a corona, of course and a very well priced ($8 or so?) margarita for me. Even though there were a decent number of people in the restaurant, our drinks came quickly and were delicious. The drinks menu isn’t particular out there or wildly impressive, but it goes with the chill, simple, no frills idea of the restaurant.

Margarita time! (and a half-demolished chip bowl)

There were some fantastic looking buffalo wings as a menu entree – but focused we were, we went straight for the big guys. For mains, DF went for chicken enchiladas ($19) and I went for my typical choice – the choice by which I judge all Mexican restaurants – the beef burrito ($21.50).

Enchiladas

The enchiladas were huge! Two packed enchiladas, topped with a mild (yes, DF is the world’s biggest heat wimp) tomato sauce, tasty rice and a side of beans. Little black beans would have been better – they kind of tasted very obviously of “canned goods” but other than that, DF gave a nice big thumbs up.

Burrito!

So my burrito was incredible. Tasty, super tender shredded beef, beans and cheese in a massive tortilla. Rice, sour cream, guac and salsa on the site. Sufficiently spicy; not overkill. So flavoursome and such a generous serving. I like the concept of having it all in the burrito, all in one, but then I guess this way skips the issue that I once faced – ALL of the super spicy chili down one end of the burrito, which I injested in one, big, painful, teary bite. Anyway – I’ll be coming back for this burrito again.

The cool thing about Poco’s Cantina is that it has no frills. Look anywhere – literally, there are none. And it doesn’t try to be fancy. They serve their chips in a plastic container. Their menu is in a plastic folder. The waiters are these young surfy kids. It’s brilliant!

Being my birthday, we decided to take a quick visit down the road to this cool little cafe called Kurtosh. It’s a cafe based on this Hungarian “donut” called “Kurtoskalacs” (you know the ones, wrapped around a wooden mold and baked in that funky looking machine, dusted with cinnamon / sugar). Kurtosh also has a few counters filled with these massive slabs of cake – chocolate cake, cheese cake, nutty cakes, teacakes, blondies, poppy seed cakes – you name it – that you buy by the gram. We went for 100 grams ($4), which gets you a very nicely appropriately sized piece, of a berry cheesecake. Thick, rich and very cheesy, it was let down slightly by its non-biscuit-based crust (the best of all bases), but was delicious nonetheless. We also went for a very chocolate-y chocolate ball (no rum, unfortunately!), for $2.50. If richness could be defined by a small dessert, then this chocolate ball would be that definition. It wasn’t complex, it wasn’t mysterious… it was chocolate, and it was good.

Cheesecake and chocolate

We went to:

Poco’s Cantina
52 St Paul’s St,
Randwick NSW 2031

Food? 7/10
Drinks? 6/10
Ambience? 6/10
Recommend it? Yes, for a relaxed “cantina” dinner. The food and drinks were cheap and delicious – grab a few friends, sit around a bigger table at the back and have a good ol’ night.

Poco Cantina on Urbanspoon

Kurtosh
20 St Paul’s St,
Randwick NSW 2031