February 11th, 2009

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Teriyaki Boy

Teriyaki Boy was a bit of a win for me, so much so I have already been back. Thus this review is the amalgamation of two visits. It's a nice, low-key local for those, like myself, who live in the Balmain area. What I like about this restaurant is that it walks the fine line between being quirky enough to make it memorable for fans of all things Japanese, and accessible enough for staunch non-believers.

Decor is pretty non-existent, but I did like the odd use of a repeated white pig-trotter shape on salmon pink as the unifying thematic decor element.

Even I scratched my head at the ‘Bite of the Week Asazuke $0’ chalked on the specials until a complimentary amuse-bouche of lightly pickled cucumber arrived. At our second visit, the board said ‘Bite of the Week Salted Edamame $0’ and these were good too, but I wanted more salt. It's probably safe to then assume they weren't salty enough, as it is rare for me to say more salt, except if I (mistakenly) get unsalted butter - then I whine.

Concepts from other cuisines litter their menu. My favourite dish was the curious volcano-shaped Steamed Prawn Dim Sims ($12/ 3 pieces) - light and fluffy inside, and totally unrelated to any ‘dim sim’ I’ve ever met. These actually drew me back so and I ate them again on the next visit (with a slight spoiler, as you'll see below). Note the yellow smear on the side of the plate - it was a much milder (and in fact very pleasant) wasabi type product.

The Salmon Carpaccio ($12) combines thin, fresh slices of er... salmon sashimi with a home-made dressing, fresh greens and zingy cherry tomatoes. It's really good, and again featured on my order on my second visit. This is a good example of fusion cuisine working very well, probably because they are fusing a concept from one cuisine (Italian) and staying true to the flavours of another (Japanese).

On more traditional turf, the Agedashi Nasu ($9.00) or deep fried eggplant was a good version of the standard dish.

Apologies for my out-of-focus photo of the Yaki Gyoza ($9/4 pieces) - they were good, and quite popular with many plates of them going out into the restaurant (under my eagle eye)!

The Pork Kakuni ($13) or simmered pork belly in a sweet sauce is rather lovely. The pork pieces are hiding under these crisp squares, accompanied by some greens and some potato cubes. It went perfectly with the lovely yellow wasabi smear too.

A Sushi and Sashimi Platter ($24) came nicely presented and accompanied by a bowl of miso soup, the only disappointment being slightly bland vegetarian rolls.

Those with a traditional ‘Aussie’ palate should enjoy the tender Wafu ($19) or eye fillet presented with an accessible home-style steak sauce. I tried it and found it to be tender, but on my subsequent visit I tried and preferred the Wagyu Beef Ginger ($18), or thinly sliced beef with a ginger sauce served with a nicely dressed selection of greens.

An odd yet delicious dessert of cigar-shaped Red Bean Spring Rolls ($7) pleased me no end, particularly dipped in the green tea powder decorating the plate. It was in some ways similar to the cheesecake spring rolls I miss so much from the long departed Zenbu. And you'd be right if you guessed I had them again on my return visit.

Luckily my second dining companion had slightly different taste and ordered the Deep Fried Banana with Ice-cream ($8) so I got to try something new too. This was a great dessert, which of course could be made more adult in flavour by upping the quality of the chocolate sauce and making some interesting house-made ice-cream, but as it was, it still appealed in a transport you back to childhood sort of way.

Service is hospitable service, and incredibly fast. I'd guess they probably have one too many waitresses on for the size of the space - bad for their profit margins in these tough times, but it means as a consumer, you rarely wait for anything.

On my second visit we had a minor issue with a part of the blender being located in one of our dim sims. A manager came out promptly, explained what the metal part was ("We were looking for that."), apologised and told us the dish would be deducted from our bill as a matter of course. My dining companion also managed to leave his wallet in the restaurant - by the time we got home they had located it, and called us unprompted (he assumed it was at home) and it was returned intact. You can't ask for much more than that from your local.

Teriyaki Boy

481 Darling Street, Balmain
(02) 9555 6510

Teriyaki Boy on Urbanspoon
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Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Manta

I am quite a way behind with reporting on my dining adventures, so forgive me for returning to the beginning of the festive season for this event on the deck area outside Manta Restaurant. As you can see from my dining companion's shaded look under the Pantone 137C coloured respite of the Veuve Clicquot umbrellas, it's early for us on the weekend.

Thus you can imagine how much I appreciated the cleverly updated Manta Mary ($16) created by award winning bartender Jean Munos. With a head of egg white, a body of house-roasted Roma tomato juice, a well-disguised kick of alcohol and a platter of oysters in front of me, it was indeed the breakfast of champions.

After a good half glass of tomato juice, it was time to begin slurping oyster farmer Tim Dumbrell’s freshly shucked Moreton Bay QLD oysters. Three oysters at this event set you back $9. On this plate we also tried oysters from Hastings River NSW and Wallis Lake NSW. The Wallis Lake offerings ended up being the best. Remember the colours of my photos look a bit off because of the reflected shade of the yellow umbrellas.

Just when we were patting ourselves on the back for making it through this rather intense breakfast we were sent a another dozen, this time from the restaurant's normal oyster selection. My fear was quickly dispelled by my wonder at the Moonlight Flat Angasi which are apparentgly like their French cousins. They're beautiful to look at, as you can see above on the right, and combine a smoky edge with a taste as fresh as the ocean.

This long elegant platter also has some awesome Claire De Lune Bouton oysters, which I believe would appeal to you if you like Sydney Rock oysters. Now if all this fresh shucking gets you excited, you should mark down 15th March, 2009 in your diary as I hear that's when their next Oyster Festival will be. Of course, you could confirm this by contacting the restaurant on (02) 9332 3822 and getting on their mailing list for Oyster Day!

However if you’re not averse to oyster consumption outside of their prime season, you can of course eat oysters from their regular menu any time you like. We recently returned to Manta for the occasion of my dining companion's 45th birthday, and the chef sent us out the freshly shucked selection pictured above. You can safely add Manta to the list of restaurants headed by The Boathouse and Bayswater Brasserie that really care about their oysters and shuck them to order. Oysters would normally be priced at $25/half dozen or $49/dozen.

Here is my dining companion perusing the menu in the dazzling setting sun. We chose an early dinner to make the most of the glorious setting. Our cocktails arrived soon there-after, the best of which was the delicately gingery Asian Breeze ($16) pictured in the tall glass on the right.

A Raw Sharing Plate ($44) stood out for the Yamba Prawn Ceviche pictured second from the left in my photo. Far from ‘coming the raw prawn’, this dish brought out their complexity and creaminess with garlic, chilli, lime and baby basil. In fact, next time I would skip the rest of the raw selection and order a whole plate! This is partially because the other raw selections tended toward being a little bland and/or not showcasing off the seafood to the best effect.

Golden grilled Atlantic Scallops ($28) are snap frozen at sea (something I understand is necessary due to where they are caught, but I basically object to). Their size and being frozen seems to make them a bit hardier as they were cooked to the right level, but with a really nice golden top. They retained their shape and meaty structure in a summery presentation with cress, orange, fennel and excellent hazelnuts. That said, I prefer the smaller scallops collected closer to Sydney because I feel there is a textural and flavour loss from freezing.

Relaxed friendly service is further aided by a directive to spend time at your table as required. Our waitress suggested a Spanish 2007 Valminor Albarino ($71) that drank beautifully and travelled well across an excellent truffled pasta special and into her comforting Buttermilk Pudding ($16) recommendation for dessert.

I was quite surprised at the simplicity of this dessert  which came with strawberry jelly, lime marscapone mousse and warm anglais. It belied what you expect from desserts at this sort of venue, and as a result was quite delightful. It was a perfect soothing counterpoint to the rich seafood meal.

Overall the menu is less focused on seafood than the last time I dined here, which was not long after they opened for the occasion of a friend's birthday. Carnivores will be pleased with their selection of fine beef (including grass-fed options) cooked on the charcoal grill. Vegetarian diners get a whole page of choices in the diverse menu. Everyone gets the pretty city view with lapping water, and a parade of expensive dresses and shoes passing by to ogle, mock and admire as you sit back and enjoy the good life.

6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
Ph: (02) 9332 3822