Monday, May 30, 2016

Gray's by Circa, Sydney

What happens when one of Sydney's innovative chefs and one of Sydney's best cafes get together? You get one awesome eatery and wine bar. For the next 9 weeks, pop-up restaurant Gray's by Circa will be operating behind the Edition Coffee Roasters pop-up coffee shop on Castlereagh Street (Located below the Trust Building, across from Gregory). It's a partnership between Head Chef Jack New (ex-Maslow's, Edition, Sokyo, Cafe Sydney and Ananas) and Mr. Circa Espresso himself: Aykut Sayan

Coffee available from Edition Coffee Roasters

Chef Jack New

The theme behind Gray's by Circa is "Cuisine for the modern Dorian Gray". A character created by the renowned and controversial author Oscar Wilde. Gray's is all about the ultimate pleasure through food and wine. All their breakfast and lunch dishes will be highly European inspired. The place has a Trattoria-like feel. They also offer wine for lunch to perfectly match their lunch menu dishes. I visited Gray's to check out their breakfast offerings.


Their hotcake ($14) was sensational! It's a beautifully constructed fluffy rose water and ricotta hotcake dish with grilled fig, salted dulce de leche mousse, Pedro Ximinez soaked dates and pistachios. Jack's hotcakes are always amazing.

Then there's the fancy Duck eggs Croque Madame ($15). It is massive and rich in flavours thanks to the bechamel, smoky ham and buttered sourdough. The watercress dressed with truffle oil went perfectly with the duck egg. The earthy flavour from the truffle oil complimented the creamy yolk of the flavoursome duck egg. I can have this dish for breakfast/brunch everyday. 
Depending on how this pop-up performs, there's a possibility of Gray's opening for dinner too. So check them out before the pop-up ends. I'm definitely keen to return and try out the lunch menu. Follow @GraysbyCirca on Instagram for further updates.

Grays by Circa
72A Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Opening hours:

Monday to Friday 7am-3pm

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Guilty, Darlinghurst - Bar and burgers

A lot of burger joints have opened in Sydney this year and I'm slowly working my way through them. But when Melbourne's renowned Burger Maestro opens his own burger place, you make it your priority to hit it up ASAP. I've been following Jimmy Hurslton (a.k.a. @Jimmysburgers) for years and his instagram account has been my go to guide for Melbourne burger recommendations. He has been to almost every (probably "all") legit burger place in Melbourne, Sydney and beyond. He is also the owner of Easy's in Melbourne. Bottomline is, this guy knows everything of what makes an excellent burger.

Batman brew

Guilty is his latest baby and is located in the heart of Darlinghurst. It's actually more of  well-rounded bar than it is a burger place. But my visit was really for the burgers because "no burger no life" right?

The Kecksburger ($10) is their house cheeeseburger with salad, onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard in a soft potato bun. I prefer my cheeseburger without salad but this is an exception. It's well constructed and the salad doesn't take the attention away from the melted cheese and the tasty juicy patty.

Then there's my favourite, the rowdy double jeopardy ($17). This is where their flame grilled perfectly cooked and seasoned beef patties shine. Just like the kecksburger, the patties contain coarsely mince beef. The good thing about the coarsely minced beef is that it created pockets of juice and chunks of meat for amazing texture. Double the patty and double cheese gives this classic cheeseburger with a twist that extra umami and juicy factor. It also came with ketchup and mustard.

The tots to life ($6) is their tater tots with a twist. Deep fried morsels of potato that's super crisped on the outside and fluffy in the inside. They then take it up a notch by topping it up with melted cheese, crispy bacon pieces and caramelised onions.

A sweet combo of fast service, quality booze, outstanding burgers, deep fried stuff and hiphop tracks, you can't go wrong with Jimmy's joint. If lovin' this place is a crime, then I'm GUILTY as charged!

248 Palmer Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Opening Hours:

Monday to Sunday 11am to 10pm
Guilty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sydney Ramen Wars Vol.1 - Salaryman, Surry Hills

We’ve had burger wars in Sydney. But with the growing love for Japanese ramen in Sydney, it was just right for a Ramen Wars event to finally transpire. Salaryman in Surry Hills organised the first volume of Ramen Wars in Sydney last Sunday, 15 May 2016. The first volume was a faceoff between two teams of ex-Noma Chefs: Silvereye’s Head Chef Sam Miller and Sous Chef Tom Halpin and Master Restaurant’s Head Chef John Javier

Both teams were given the freedom to be creative and innovative with their own interpretations of ramen. I love ramen! So I can’t miss the opportunity of going to the first ever Sydney Ramen Wars. Diners on the night were given the power to become Ra-men and women judges. For $60 you get to have 2 bowls of ramen, a cocktail and a dessert.  

Here’s what took place: 

There were two choices of cocktails and I opted for the "yuzu deepthroater", which had yuzushu, vodka, yuzu, grapefruit and elderflower liquer.

Ramen no.1 (Ox tongue, smoked eel, mushroom ramen
Ramen no.1 (by Team Silvereye Restaurant): Ox tongue, smoked eel, mushroom ramen
This ramen had a lot of great technique going on. Toppings were cooked perfectly and the wavy ramen noodles were nice and firm. The shoyu (soy) based broth was aromatic and light. But whilst this bowl excelled in technique, it lacked in the broth department. It seemed like they were going for a concentrated reduced-type broth but I think it would have worked better if they turned the broth into a tsukemen dipping broth. The broth itself needed some sort of umami hit (even just a little bit) for it to work 100% too.
Ramen no.2 (Combination seafood and XO sauce)
Ramen no.2 (by Team Master Restaurant): Combination seafood and XO sauce ramen
Straight off the bat, this bowl of ramen gets a lot of points for having generous toppings of seafood in Master’s ramen. There was also more broth in this bowl. The butter foam-like cream was also a good touch for adding umami and extra texture to what seemed like a shio (salt) based broth. I like that John used the thin noodles that are normally used for Hakata-style ramen. It was a hearty bowl and to me, a hearty ramen is a winner. This was my pick and also the official winner of Ramen Wars: Volume 1. 
Yuzu and pine nut tart
The yuzu and pine nut tart by Salaryman was beautiful! The lush yuzu custard and pastry with pine nuts was an awesome combo.

Whilst what we had wasn't really what one would expect from a typical bowl of ramen, it was still an interesting night of ramen fun! I'm looking forward to who will be facing off in Volume 2.

Ramen Raff was invited by Tonic PR as a guest of Salaryman's Ramen Wars.

Ramen Wars at Salaryman
52-54 Albion St
Surry Hills NSW 2010

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hills Bros - Martin Place, Sydney

In the last two years, we saw the specialty coffee movement grow throughout the Sydney CBD. Just last week, Russell Beard (Owner of Reuben Hills and Paramount Coffee Project) has opened Hills Bros in the heart of Martin Place. 

Hills Bros is a specialty coffee shop located at 5 Martin Place's foyer area. It has a sleek art gallery-like design reminiscent of Paramount Coffee Project. It was nice to see some familiar faces from RH and PCP in the Hills Bros team (Hi Nic and Eden!). The coffee is sourced from Reuben Hills and the menu designed by Chef Naoya Shimada consists of mostly Asian and Latin inspired dishes. 

The Reuben Hills blend is normally made light to medium roast so I opted for a piccolo latte ($4). The milk temperature was perfect and the bright fruity and nutty notes that I like about their blend pierced through the milk nicely. 
Their brown rice congee ($14) is next level! This is the first time I've had congee with brown rice and the nutty flavour suited the congee. It was topped with ajitama (ajitsuke tamago a.k.a. Japanese style marinated soft boiled egg), shiitake mushroom, pickled gingered carrots and amazing bacon jam. The balanced nutty, earthy, sweet and sour flavours were what made this dish so good. It was also well seasoned.

I didn't get to try the beautiful looking miso braised pork bowl ($18) but my buddy Jack New had it and said it was awesome. It consists of miso braised pork, Japanese slaw, shichimi buttered corn, fungi, pickled bean sprouts, kewpie mayo, bonito flakes and ajitama. 

Oatmeal breakfast waffle

Another dish that's popular here is the oatmeal breakfast waffle ($15). I loved how the waffle was fluffy inside and crisped on the outside. It also came with a beautiful brûlée banana, blueberries and warm orange spiced almond milk. 

It's a great CBD cafe with excellent coffee, food and service. Check them out!

Hills Bros
5 Martin Place
Sydney NSW 2000
Opening hours:

Monday to Friday 7am-4:30pm
Hills Bros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato