Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mercado Restaurant, Sydney

I'm no expert on Spanish cuisine, but I grew up in Manila eating a lot of it. Whether it was during family gatherings or eating out for dinner, Paellas, lengua estofado, cochinillo asado (suckling pig) and jamon played a big part in my childhood. Enough about my childhood and let me introduce you to a new kid in town. 

Mercado (spanish for Market) is the latest tasty addition to the Ash St/Martin Place dining scene. It's a bar and restaurant located on a sub lane/street level is a restaurant with chic interior and elegant mood lighting. Nathan Sasi (ex-Nomad and ex-Rockpool), the dude behind those amazing goats cheese churros and other dishes when Nomad first opened is the owner and head chef of Mercado. Expect exceptional Mediterranean flavours with mostly Spanish and Moorish influenced dishes. Traces of his work at Nomad can be seen on the menu. The cheese, charcuterie, pickles, bread, sauces etc are all made in-house. Most of the snacks comes with a side of their amazing sourdough made from spelt, whole wheat, corn & rye. This is what Chocolatesuze and I had on the night:

Before our orders came out, Nathan brought out some snacks for us to try on the house such as; buffalo ricotta with truffle honey, oregano and a side of toasted sourdough ($16) and also fish and chips ($12)
Buffalo ricotta with truffle honey and oregano
Toasted sourdough
The buffalo ricotta was so light and fluffy. Along with truffle and oregano, it reminded us of Nathan's goats cheese churros back in Nomad.
Fish and chips
Mercado's fish and chips is not the traditional snack that consists of a battered fish and hot chips. Instead, it's a smart interpretation of it, which consists of housemade potato crisps and addictive smoky fish dip. 

We ordered some of their charcuterie offerings, which in my opinion is some of the best I've had in Sydney! 
Wagyu cecina with wood fire beets and quest garrotte
The smoky and buttery wagyu cecina ($22) was nicely complimented by the sweetness of the wood fire beets and light queso garrotxa. 
Truffle mortadella
The truffle mortadella ($19) had a nice fatty soft texture with next level hints of earthy notes from the truffle. The guindillas peppers that came with the mortadella was sweet and sour with heat that slowly creeps up at the back of the palate.
Ortiz anchovies tart with roasted bull horn
The Ortiz anchovies tart with roasted bull horn ($14) was superb.  It's a delicate snack that balances intense and subtle flavours. 
Smoked wagyu tongue and pickled green tomato

One of the most instagrammed snack here at the moment is their smoked wagyu tongue and pickled green tomato in a super buttery toasted brioche ($14). It was the best toastie I've had to date. The wagyu tongue was tender, buttery and smoky. The pickled green tomato gave balance to this rich snack.
Foie gras parfait with pickles and toast
Their foie gras parfait with pickles and toast ($29) was mind blowing! The foie gras parfait was like an exquisite sweet and creamy liver pâté but with a smooth whipped-liked consistency.
Spit roasted David Blackmore wagyu blade
The spit roasted David Blackmore wagyu blade ($52) is a massive steak that was cooked perfectly medium rare. It was fatty, juicy and flavoursome with a nice caramelised charred surface. It came with a meaty tasting gravy that almost had a jus-like consistency. 
Dripping potatoes with roasted garlic and creme fraiche
We picked the dripping potatoes with roasted garlic and crème fraîche ($16) as an accompaniment to our wagyu blade main. The chunks of potato were so crisped on the outside and fluffy inside. It was nicely seasoned and flavoured with salt and rosemary. 
Fat from heaven
Last but not least, we had the "fat from heaven" ($16) for dessert. It's a milk flan with vanilla bean and caramel with sticks of short bread. Though the texture was a little bit light than I what I would prefer, it was still nice and smooth. The vanilla in the actual flan and orange in the caramel was a nice touch along with the beautiful short breads.

The service is outstanding, the venue is fab and the food is excellent. I'll be back soon Mercado!

Mercado Restaurant
4 Ash Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Opening hours:
Mon to Fri 12pm-2:30pm

Mon to Thurs 5:30pm-10pm

Fri and Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm
Mercado Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tokyo Eats 2016 - Part 1

The capital of Japan is a place of many faces. It’s cool, fun, traditional, modern and vibrant all at the same time. You’ll have neon-lit skyscrapers on one part and next thing you know, you’re in an area with an old town charm of past decades. Just like this bustling metropolis, the variety of food is massive! Everything from Izakayas, hybrid izakayas, ramenya, sushi joints, tonkatsu house, burger joints and lots of soft serve! Tokyo will keep surprising you with what it has to offer in regards of food. We ate and conquered. Here's part 1 of what we had in Tokyo:

Me with the awesome Chef Takahiro

I'm going to start with one of our favourite joints in Tokyo. We love our pork and we love tonkatsu! The best tonkatsu I've had to date was from a family-owned tonkatsu house in Shibadaimon called Musashiya. Even after being featured on TV and all, Chef Takahiro and his family remains grounded and passionate about what they do. From the service down to the food, everything was nothing short of excellent.
Super premium tonkatsu 
Sexy fatty cross-section
Their super premium tonkatsu meal (¥2,650) consists of a huge slab of beautifully cooked hiraboku berk sangen pork (from Tochigi) with rice, miso soup and cabbage salad. The pork cutlet was perfection from the crunchy and flakey coating to the fatty succulent marbled pork meat.

Special premium tonkatsu
They took the same pork to the next level with their special premium tonkatsu meal (¥2,050). The pork was stuffed with garlic, shiso and cheese! It made the pork extra juicy, creamy and super flavoursome.
Another outstanding dish was their Motsu-ni (¥550). It is stewed pieces of pork entrails in a milky miso sauce. The entrails were tender and rich but the miso sauce balances the dish with subtle milky and sweet flavours. It’s a comfort-giving dish that is perfect especially on a cold winter night.

The meatballs (¥450) on offer were delicious and sweet with hints of garlic and ginger. 

1-11-3 Shibadaimon, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Business hours:
Monday to Friday 11:30am to 2:00pm,
5:30 to 10:00
(deep-fried food last order 8:45pm)
Closed: Sundays and holidays (except Saturdays
only lunch 11:30 to 14:00)
Nearest Station: Daimon

35 Steps Bistro

We visited an underground (literally underground) Izakaya in Shibuya called 35 Steps Bistro. It's called 35 steps because the stairs that take you down to a Japanese style tavern is roughly 35 steps. It's not easy to find so I posted a photo of the entrance above. It is also located underneath Shibuya City Hotel. Another thing that stood out was the energy of the staff, you can tell that they enjoy their work. Plus points (domo arigatou!) for having an English menu!

We started with a complimentary appetizer salad with crunchy topping and sweet yuzu dressing. This was shortly followed by their famous Aburi-shimesaba (¥924) aka flame seared saba mackerel! The skin was smoky whilst the meat was fresh, slightly oily and sweet. This is a must when you visit 35 Steps.
It was followed by a super tasty kakuni. It was not the usual pork belly meat kakuni but oh man! It sweet, succulent and tender!
Kara-age jan
Their kara-age jan (¥819) chicken is not the kind that most of us are used to. It's more like Korean-style fried chicken nibbles dressed with a tangy sweet soy and vinegar glaze. It was awesome nevertheless.

crème brûlée
Last but not least, we also tried their crème brûlée  (¥315). The final stage of the blow torching to caramelise the sugar top was even done at our table! The sound of shattering caramel shard to the lush custard was awesome.

If I were to recommend one izakaya to visit in Tokyo, it's 35 Steps Bistro! Besides the prices being ridiculously cheap for its location, the staff here was super friendly.

35 Steps Bistro
Address: 1-1 Maruyamacho, B1F Shibuya City Hotel, Shibuya, Tokyo
03 3770 9835 (Reservations also in English)
5.30pm – 11.30pm daily
Nearest station: Shibuya

Kaikaya By The Sea

Just like 35 Steps, this seafood themed izakaya is popular with the locals and tourists. It's said that the owner Teruyuki Tange is well connected with some of the best suppliers at the Tsukiji Market. Hence, all the seafood he gets and serves at Kaikaya is guaranteed fresh and top notch. Kaikaya has been around since 1985 and that says a lot about this place. They also have an English menu! Here’s what we had:
Senyo no carpaccio
The Senyo no Carpaccio (¥1,000) is fresh fish with Genovese style basil paste with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This dish is all about freshness and highlighting the quality of every produce that goes into it. Everything is exquisite from the delicate, fresh and flavoursome hamachi to the dressing and basil paste. 
Sengyo no ryoushi-fu takiba yaki 
Sengyo no Ryoushi-fu Takiba Yaki (¥2,300) is a whole fresh white fish drenched in flour and broiled then served with sweet herb oil. It was super flavoursome and perfectly cooked.
Takana yaki-meshi
The Takana Yaki-meshi (¥700) is fried rice with pickled mustard leaves is one of the best fried rice I've had! The pickled mustard cuts through all the rich parts of the fried rice. This makes this rice the perfect pair with the Sengyo no Ryoushi-fu Takiba Yaki.
Hotategai no risotto okoge
Their Hotategai no Risotto Okoge (¥1,200) is a risotto pancake style Gorgonzola cheese risotto topped scallops! This dish was all about the awesome bold and creamy gorgonzola throughout the risotto and complimented by the roasted nutty flavoured crispy bits from the pan. The scallops were also tasty and perfectly cooked.
Ebi negi yaki-soba
I also enjoyed their Ebi Negi Yaki-soba (¥1,200), which is stir-fried noodles with prawn and leek. The combination of the noodles caramelised crispy bits, sesame oil dressing and prawns worked a treat with the additional sharp and sweet flavours of leek.

Kaikaya By the Sea
Location: 23-7 Maruyamacho, Shibuya, Tokyo
Business Hours: Weekdays: 11.30am-2:00pm, 6:00-11.30pm mon-fri; Weekends: 6:00-11.30pm. Reservations only on weekends, so call: (03)3770-0878
Closest Station: Shibuya

Uobei by Genki Sushi

We also had sushi of course! If you want to try amazing, fresh sushi on a budget, I highly recommend checking out the high-tech sushi joint Uobei in Shibuya. Thanks to my homie Rockahenry for the tip! They have the same offerings as Genki but for some reason, Uobei is cheaper. Just like it's sister restaurant, it's also very popular that we had to queue for over 20 minutes. Order three items at a time on a touchscreen infront of you and your food is delivered in a high speed chute. Here’s the line-up (I tried to note down the names as much I can):

 Seared salmon with mayo & pepper (¥108)
 Salmon with green onion and chilli oil (¥108)
 Scallops nigiri (¥108)
 Arrow squid with green onion and salt sauce (¥108)
 Albacore Tuna with green onion and chilli oil (¥108)
 Cheese croquettes (¥108)

 Uni (sea urchin) sushi (¥108)
 Tuna belly nigiri (¥108)

 Horse Mackarel (¥108)


Address: 2-29-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku
Opening hours: 11am-12midnight
Transport:Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin, Denentoshi, Tokyu Toyoko, Keio Inokashira lines)

Sushi Ichiba at Tsukiji Market

A Tokyo sushi experience ain't complete without visiting one of the many sushi houses at Tsukiji Market. It's in the same vicinity where all the Tokyo seafood suppliers trade some of the best seafood in the world. So you are guaranteed with fresh and top quality produce. Places like the famous Sushi Dai had long queues, so we decided to randomly pick one without any. We ended sampling some amazing sushi at Sushi Ichiba. 

O-toro: Super tasty fatty part of the tuna belly

I ordered a sampling plate that cost about ¥3,800.The fish to rice ration was perfect. The rice was packed perfectly. Not too firm and not too loose. Everything on the plate was fresh, plump and delicious. Even if the place was small and the counter was narrow, the excellent sushi made up for it. Definitely these are some of the best sushi I've had. Their delicious o-toro nigiri is the most exquisite item on the plate with its delicious soft, rich and creamy texture.

Word is that sushi places with shorter queues at Tsukiji are just as good as the ones with long queues. So why waste time lining up for hours at a known joint when you can get seats almost straight away at an awesome place like Sushi Ichiba.

Sushi Ichiba
Building #6 (opposite end of Sushi Dai)
5-2-1 Tsukiji
Closest station: Tsukiji


There was also a lot of ramen in this trip. For more info, check out my round-up post of all my ramen eats in Japan here.

Here are some photos: