Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kyoto Nama Chocolate Organic Tea House/きょおとなまちよこれっと

Yet another cute little cafe/teahouse just around the corner from my Kyoto apartment.  "Nama (fresh) Chocolate" has a lovely homey vibe - with good reason. The proprietors, a Canadian woman (who is more Japanese than some Japanese women I know!) and her Japanese hubby live above - which may explain why their pets are also part of the experience. The cat, like most felines, couldn't give a fig about you  - she prefers to snuggle by the fire but the dog is gorgeous and loves to greet patrons by offering his silky head for a pat before you enter.
As it is so close to home I have dropped in a few times for a cuppa ... they have very decent, organic coffee and of course you can enjoy tea and other drinks   - but that is about it for the standard menu - drinks and chocolate! what more does a girl need really?? 

However at certain times of the year they have an additional lunch menu - and it is sen-bloody-sational - healthy, organic, simply delicious grub and mostly vegetarian - the type of food that makes you feel less guilty about scoffing the chocolates afterwards! But please don't let the healthy tag put you off - it TASTES really wonderful and seems to be a bit of a blend of Japanese and western style vego! The chef/owner really knows his stuff.  When they have the lunch thing happening you need to go early - it is very popular. It may be worth calling ahead as there doesn't appear to be any set rules for when...
On my last visit I ran into the lovely Kiri (below)  - she's the daughter of a friend's friend who's family I'd had the pleasure of meeting on New Year's Eve as we lined up in the snow at midnight to ring the bell at a local temple.... Kiri's mum is Australian but this charming young lady has grown up in Japan and is so strikingly Japanese in her demeanour that you can't help but just stare at the poor girl as her look (and ginger locks!) seems so at odds with her mannerisms... She is such a sweetie so I was delighted to run into her on a quiet day when I was on my own.
The speciality of the house are, locally renowned, hand-made chocolates in 3 flavours - bitter chocolate and Okinawan Shochu, Kyoto matcha (local green tea), and a slightly sweeter version curiously flavoured with an Austrian herb liqueur - all divine! However the "chocolates" are more like a parfait than a truffle and you can even buy them frozen in take home packets. Just take them out as you need them - letting them come almost to room temperature then enjoy with a little fork or spoon. 
Coffee+Chocolate=Happy Jane

It has always been winter when I have visited so I look forward to cooling off in the garden in the warmer months.....

That cat still hasn't moved!!
Someone's ears were burning... possibly literally...
The cold clearly doesn't bother some...
Looking forward to be back here soon! promise to post some pics when I next eat lunch there. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Report

Last night we finished shooting the recipe images (and a few glorious incidentals) for my new book. Phew!! It was an extremely intense experience for reasons I won't go into but I would so very much like to thank a few people for making the shots so very gorgeous. 

Uber photographer Cath Muscat - you are a star (and incredibly patient) - thank you for shooting such wonderful images and for keeping the team pumping - your barista skills, joyous toons and Michelle Norianto's fab porridge bake sustained us to the very end). 

Olivia Andrews - I couldn't have asked for a better person to cook my food, you did so with interest, passion, care, respect and precision - you were a joy to work with and I know you will go far my love.  I wish you the best with your new and exciting ventures....

It was a pleasure to meet and work with you both. 

And last, but not least, my dear friend (and partner in crime when it comes to creative vision and warped humour) designer Reuben Crossman for ensuring the overall vibe of the book reflects the essence of my narrative and experiences and that the recipe styling was beautiful and spot on without being overly literal - a difficult balance with this particular project and cuisine. You are a crazily talented being and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for going above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to produce (what is destined to be) one of the most stunning paper products EVER!.  Thank you also for being my courier, chauffeur and travel companion in the 3 hour drive each day! I owe you a life time supply of QP mayo!

Lots of love to you all and thank you also to the team at Murdoch Books (and for the final day Pies from Bourke Street Bakery - thanks Sally!)

Jane xx


Grant King (the G and the K in GastroparK) and ex head chef of Pier Restaurant is so rocking my world right now. His food is clever, fun, innovative and most importantly - seriously delish!  

 It is definitely in my top 5 meals of the year - and a couple of those were in Japan so I guess that makes it one of my top 3 dining experiences in Oz for 2011! And I've had a few....

My dining companions one evening a couple of weeks ago were Chef Peter Gilmore, John Fink and Kylie Ball of Quay - needless to say we wouldn't have been the easiest table to impress...   but we all walked away buzzing with excitement after spending the entire dinner raving at each other about how good the grub was - the clinking of duelling cutlery evidence of our frenzied feasting!. 

I really need to start writing down what I eat, especially when I've been swilling wine. I think I am getting old - or maybe its just the stress of trying to leave the country for a year or so and fitting life in around the preparations... The same excuse will have to do for the lack of detail about each dish - just know they were all freakin' fantastic and that if you don't make yourself a booking soon you would be a fool. It is only going to get busier. 

Here's some snaps....

Unique butter presentation - seems to be the trick du jour. A simple gesture but I was suitably impressed. 

Puttanesca wafer - crisp parmesan studded with all the slutty bits you might expect - tomato, anchovies etc..

Thai inspired kingfish sashimi
raw scallops with lime, squid ink "caviar",  tuna bone marrow in vertebrae
cured blackmore wagyu short rib grizzini - bloody excellent snackin'
Shaved foie gras, wild hare, beetroot apple balsamic, red cabbage granita
onion and mushroom macchiato, caramelised veal sweetbread - sensational
soy and mustard glazed swordfish belly with pickled cucumber

liquid butternut gnocchi with mushroom consommé
salad of smoked eel, nasturtiums, beetroot, potato, horseradish
Seared scallops, carrot tofu, serrano ham, endive reduction, marcona almond
saddle of lamb, textures of cauliflower and mushrooms
crispy scaled snapper, smoked potato puree, calamari crackling, ink sauce
Rangers Valley beef fillet, soubise, veal sweetbread, sauté kale

Olive oil poached blue eye, clams, chorizo, octopus, piquillo pepper
Chocolate and honeycomb orb (complete with tiny cookies and cream macarons) is one of the most sensationally scrummo desserts I have encountered  - even Chef Gilmore couldn't get enough of it - and he knows a thing or two about spherical desserts!! 
Nitro pavlova with tropical fruits and coconut
caramelised pain perdu, apple, balsamic ice cream
pineapple marshmallow and beetroot "fruit leather"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shinme Izakaya / しんめいざかや

Oh I'm well and truly in "Japan zone" right now.... we are about 9 days into shooting my new book with just 3 more to go (exhausting  - but it is looking amazing thanks to some very talented people) and its now   only 4 weeks until I'll be winging my way back to Kyoto.  Its only appropriate that I add a few pics here of one of my favourite izakaya's - Shinme (on Senbon Dori).  Excellent food - including some of the freshest seafood I have eaten in Kyoto. Delicate textures, very well balanced flavours, friendly family run business ( although they are a little wary of foreigners at first but if you speak a few words of Japanese you will get by), old school vibe. Oh, and the sake ain't bad either. 
A little starter of seafood, broad beans and seaweed simmered in dash
Yawaraka (tender, melt in the mouth i.e. not chewy) Sashimi and a rather large oyster..

Terrific tempura including fish spine

My friend nodoguro - "black throat" fish - best fish ever - flesh tastes as though it has been poached in butter!

Rice,  tsukemono (pickles) and chirimen jakko - tiny, teeny sardines with soy and sansho

**To find the restaurant - go the the Senbon Dori and Nakadachiuri dori intersection. Walk north on the left (west) side of the street for about a minute and its on your left - an older style building with stonework around the base and the upper half is painted white with black Kanji (Japanese characters) on the front. If at the Senbon Dori/Imadegawa dori intersection -  walk south and it will be on the right hand side of the street.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


A few snaps from a recent dinner at Bilsons with friend and publicist, the lovely Shannon Blanchard. We thoroughly enjoyed L'Omnivore Grand Menu (with a couple of extra courses slipped in.... Thank you Tony and Amanda!!) and were very well looked after by a competent and friendly team.  Hardest part - choosing which menu to go with - I am very keen to return to try one of  Le Jardin (vegetarian) menus -  which sound incredible and if the meat-free courses of the Omnivore Grand Menu were anything to go by it promises to Wow!.  However, I am just being greedy as our meal was more than enough to satisfy on so many levels! The meal certainly included some seriously interesting and fun visual and textural features combined with very fine cooking technique and full and fragrant flavours. Check it out....

Fish and Chips (fun AND delicious! What a fabulous wee snackette to begin with)
Bread and Butter.... yeah - damn fine fougasse and country style bread and smokey butter.... which my arteries couldn't get enough of...
Semi Cooked and Raw Crystal Bay Prawn, Consomme, Baby Sorrel
Baby Carrot, Calamari, Ink, Macadamia, Cocoa

Egg Yolk, Truffled Chicken Soup, Cauliflower
Broccoli, Pistachio, Goats Blue, Baby Sorrel  (meat free and fabulous!)
Smoked Mackerel, Salsify, Jerusalem Artichoke, Rosemary
Polenta, Zucchini, Parmesan, Hazelnut (El bulli 2007)
Quail, Burnt Bread Cream, Beets, Sweetcorn, Raspberry
Wagyu shank, kipflers, watercress (I just want to grab this off the page - so good)
Mascarpone, Beetooot, Orange, White Sesame (really lovely transitional dish - from savoury to sweet)
Citrus Presentation (a carnival of citrus !)

Equatorial (a rich chocolate dessert topped with a drizzle of cocoa oil....mmm)
Chocolate Box (oh if you insist...)
Shan the man himself!