Friday, January 25, 2019

Ichibandori Japanese Restaurant - Neutral Bay

Neutral Bay is known as Sydney’s Japanese central and is also one of my favourite suburbs for obvious reasons. Many Sydneysiders will be familiar with renowned sushi chef Tomoyuki Matsuya (ex Hana-jurin). Tomo-san recently took over a Japanese bistro on Military Road called Ichibandori (which means “No.1 Chicken” in Japanese).

This cozy bistro showcases Japanese izakaya-style sharing dishes, to sashimi, robatayaki (grilled dishes) and ramen! The ramen side will be mainly looked after by none other than ramen master Hide Suzuki (ex head chef of Manpuku ramen). One little tip, the shop entrance is actually on Ben Boyd Road (between Military and Cheal Lane).

The kingfish carpaccio ($21) was absolutely beautiful. Fresh kingfish sashimi dressed with a light soy based sauce with sweet, tangy and umami notes.

The gyozas ($9) were perfectly seasoned with that caramelised crust that we all love. The filling was juicy and flavoursome with hints of ginger.

During one of their soft opening days, I got to try their massive bowl of Asari clams shio ramen. This was probably the most refined bowl of ramen that I’ve had in Sydney to date. It was legit! The bowl was priced at $25, which in my honest opinion is a bit pricey for a bowl of ramen. But, the price is justified by the premium toppings and ingredients that went into it. Thin modern Tokyo style noodles cooked yawarakame or soft to match the light chintan chicken and pork broth. The broth had so much complexity and umami for a light broth. That’s thanks to a shio tare seasoning that consists of over 14 secret ingredients to give it depth. There’s also smoky and umami notes from the toppings: clams and robata vegetables (various mushrooms and broccolini). I loved the crunch from the grilled matsutake mushroom. If that’s not enough to make it premium, it’s also topped with Pepe Saya butter and a spritz of sake to finish it off. Let’s not forget the premium roasted nori, menma and the most perfect flavoursome ajitsuke tamago (yolk was slightly runny, just the way I like it).

The Ramen Ichibandori sessions will be a partnership between Tomo-san and Hide-san. They will start doing ramen on a daily basis (except Sunday & public holidays) from 9pm (yes, that’s supper) till late starting from the 6th of February 2019. Customers will
be ablen choose from 2 or more types of ramen every night.

I expected nothing less from two of Sydney’s best Japanese chefs. I’m already planning my next visit which is hopefully in the next few days.

Ichibandori Robata and Ichibandori Ramen
4/81-91 Military Road
Neutral Bay NSW
6pm till late Mon-Saturday (please check their instagram accounts for more updates)

Ichibandori Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mingles Restaurant - Apgujeong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea

One of the best meals I’ve had in my life was in Seoul, South Korea. What’s even better is that in Seoul, you can do progressive lunches at Michellin restaurants at a reasonable price. In this post, I’m referring to Mingles Restaurant. It’s a restaurant that’s positioned at number 11 in Asia’s 50 best restaurants as of 2018. It has also been voted as Korea’s best restaurant for 3 consecutive years.

Mingles is also located in the upmarket area of Apgujeong and is not far from another Michelin star restaurant, Jungsik. The interior and vibe of the space is both warm and hip without any pretention even in their service. The name Mingles comes from the “mingling” or fusion of cooking styles/flavours from European, Korean and Japanese cuisine. Head chef Mingoo Kang is said to have worked at Nobu and also trained under renowned chef Martin Berasategui. The menu is seasonal and it changes every few weeks so dishes in the post may not be available at the time of your visit. We opted for their 7 course lunch (we ordered different dishes on some of the courses), which was ₩85,000 per person at the time.

It was love at first taste for me with their Amuse bouche. It’s Mingle’s egg custard with sansho pepper dish (still available). The beautiful silky custard had garlic, smoky and peppery citrus notes.

Squid carpacio dressed with fish roe.

Fruits appetiser with seasonal seafood and pinenut sauce.

We also had a Korean Cabbage Seon which had abalone on cabbage, cabbage consomme and rice cake (still available). It was delicate and simple but it had so much umami.

The butterfish from Jeju island with fried potato was delicate and perfectly cooked. The fish was velvety and juicy.

The braised Korean short-rib with roasted onion was amazing! The meat was fatty, tender and buttery as expected from a Korean short-rib. If your buttery umami from the short-rib was not enough, you will get the same extra goodness from the beef tartare along with the crunchy tile of battered nori.

High quality striploin with Jang (or Korean style sauce) consomme with seasonal vegetables and beef tartare. This dish was umami packed with from the meat to the veggies. The medium rare striploin was super tender, perfectly cooked and seasoned well. The veggies also had some sour and sweet notes.

The Jang trio is a “Doen-Jang” creme brulee, “Gan-jang” pecan, “Gochujang” blackrice, vanilla ice cream and whisky foam dessert was more than just a great treat. It was a party of well balanced flavours in my mouth!

The chestnut Korean style mont blanc was also nothing short of excellent. It had jujube, Korean citron, pear and mascarpone. It was almost like a hybrid of mont blanc and cheesecake.

We ended our lunch with a long black coffee made from Fritz coffee beans and specialty tea with sweet treats.

I was highly impressed from the space to the service and food. So much attention to detail and creativity went into each dish. I will definitely come back here next time I’m in Seoul. Another plus side to this restaurant is that you can book ahead online too!

757 Seolleung-ro, Nonhyeon 2(i)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Koreaa
Tues-Fri 12 to 10:30pm
Sat-Sun 12 to 10:00pm
Monday - closed