Friday, November 28, 2014

Turning Japanese I really think so...

This week SBS Food Online features a story I wrote for them on the rise and rise of Japanese cuisine. I spoke with many enthusiastic chefs and restaurateurs including Noma's Rene Redzepi and Peter Gilmore of Quay - wanna know what they had to say ? well take a lookie HERE!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tempura Matsu

Hello, we are in the process of moving all Japan related content over to the ZENBU TOURS site and this page has already been transferred. You will find the page link HERE. 

Thanks for your patience. Cheers, Jane 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Beauty is my neighbour

One of the things I learnt when living in Japan was to be far more appreciative of the everyday stuff, to find the beauty in the unexpected. To really look around you, noticing the slightest changes to the seasons, what plants are growing, whether a particular flower has blossomed early or later than usual, whether that lady has switched to her autumn themed Kimono yet. Is the river more full than it was a couple of weeks ago. Have the winter crabs or summer shiso come into the market, have the bamboo grown too tall this year for there to be any young, sweet shoots still in the shop for my tempura? To generally look at things you might normally pass by or ignore and to, well, stop and sniff the roses  - literally and metaphorically. 
It's not a new concept (and it isn't owned by the Japanese!) but there have been times in my life when I didn't take the time to truly see what was surrounding me. I'm somewhat relieved to know is automatic now (well most of the time - we all have days when we are too inside our own heads). To involuntarily smile at the early morning glow that lights your path, to become giggly over the colours and textures in the raw vegetables you'd normally have thrown into a pot without a second thought, or to notice the sun on a patch of moss by the sea are simple, joyful moments that come for free and make me a happy girl. 
When times are tough we sometimes need to look a little harder, to open our eyes wider. It can take a little more effort. Or a lot. But like working a muscle to give it more strength practicing the 'stop and notice' helps the natural reflex to return, which holds you steady, it allows you to be free. And to breathe. And to float.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bentley Restaurant and Bar

A few years back now I had the pleasure of acquiring and working on the Bentley Restaurant and Bar Cookbook for Murdoch books - a sexy beast of a thing which showcases a selection of Brent Savage's clever and visually impactful cuisine and provides the reader with just a sliver of business partner and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt's wealth of boozey knowledge.  Shot by the multitalented Luke Burgess before he jumped behind the stoves of Tasmania's fabulous Garagistes
The famous Cauliflower Custard with mushroom and black garlic. 
But that was back before they moved the Bentley from Suzza Hills (situated in the old Bentley Bar  - a dangerous place I'd frequented in my youth after dance parties - but that's not a story for now...)  to a new, spacious and more glamorous venue in the city on the corner of Pitt and Hunter Streets  -  and, by the way, also opened up another couple of popular eateries - Yellow and Monopole - neither of which I have made it to yet but I keep hearing amazing things about licorice bread for breakfast so I guess I'd best be getting myself across the bridge again sometime soon.   Too much time in Japan.
I'd been very keen to visit the new Bentley and recently shared lunch there with a friend - in doing so I was  finally able to catch up with the very clever Brent and Nick - and what a smile I had on my dial when I left - how great to see these guys doing so well.  They happen to be super lovely people so it makes it all the more cool.  Congratulations on your recent awards guys. 

Check out my lunch and drool.
A couple of bites to start us off with hints of Japan  - yuzu, wagyu, sesame - I was feeling right at home.
Sea urchin and Carrot left. Sugarsnaps, zucchini, asparagus, pine nut right.
Morton Bay Bugs, snapper and shellfish broth
Veal, celeriac, pumpernickel, pickled onion

So good. 

And don't I wish I'd had dessert......
Please have one for me when you go. And instagram me some dessert porn OK?
Beautiful fit out by the lovely Pascale Gomes-McNabb.

I'm sorry - but I had to put the cauliflower custard up again - how stunning is this??
PS - I  noted they are selling the Bentley book in the restaurant  - so when you eat there - make sure you take a peek!  Nudge nudge wink wink.... 

Pitt Street Eats

It must be the warmer weather. I seem to be out of the house a lot more in the evenings lately - eating Asian food.  Tough life. 

It had certainly been some time since I'd eaten around Chinatown - made obvious by its expansion well into Pitt Street.  I barely recognised this end of town.

Some weeks ago I met some friends at the handsome old Civic Hotel (an oldie but a goodie) for a quick pre dinner Amaretto Sour (And it was goood, let me tell you) 

before walking few meters north to Seabay Chinese Restaurant for steamed dumplings, fried pork, lamb pies, spicy chicken salad and a great little stirfy of slivered potatoes and peppers.  This place is seriously no frills and the menu is succinct but what they do, they do pretty well. I think it only came to about $20 per head  and the portions were very generous . So much so that I returned the following week with a hungry boy who needed filling. We ordered the spring onion pancake that time and it was damn good.

A few weeks later and a little further north on Pitt Street, close to Liverpool street, I was trotting down an vacant alleyway towards Madang Korean BBQ restaurant in what appears to be the start of a mini Korea town. It really felt like we were in Asia and the aromas were incredible.  Such a great vibe and full of Korean faces!  I was meeting a few fellow food writers including Leanne Kitchen who, having written an App for Chinatown restaurants (eat chinatown sydney), is kinda in the know on the better places around so I knew before I arrived we'd be in good hands.
We ordered fried chicken with spicy sour sauce, an excellent seafood pancake, dumplings, pork belly with oyster kimchee wraps and tofu with shaved bonito. Plus all the usual Korean pickled, fermented accompaniments arrived right on cue as part of the deal. We drank it down with red ginseng wine and it came to about $35 per head.

As my other half is now working near this area I suspect there will be further investigations... so stay tuned.