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Review - De Lanna Thai Street Cuisine

Sliding into the hole left by Thai Power, De Lanna Thai Street Cuisine aims to be a bit more interesting than your standard suburban Thai. It’s a first restaurant for owner Nook Jantavan, who hails from the Chiang Mai area (formerly the Lanna Kingdom) in Northern Thailand.

While the extensive menu offers up plenty of the perennial Thai favourites, my advice is to flick to the back page for the well-priced selection of Northern Thai specialities.

I’m particularly excited to see Sai Oua ($12.90) on the menu after falling in love with Laotian sausage at Tona Inthavong’s Green Peppercorn. In the hands of head chef and co-owner, Korakot Kittirat, the Northern Thai version of this spicy, herb-stuffed pork sausage is full flavoured and has good colour from the charcoal grill.

While you can eat the sausage by itself, it’s best when picked up with a pinch of Sticky Rice ($3). This is the way that Thai people generally consume it, including Marrickville’s local Thai community, who I'm told, already pop by to buy sai oua for at-home consumption.

Kao Soi Kai ($12.90) was a new dish for me. The gently, lip-tingling, coconut curry filled with egg noodles and chicken drumsticks arrives under a crunchy hat of fried noodles. Simple flavours like lemon, red onion, garlic and coriander make it easy to like, though to eat it the Northern Thai way, you should request some of their ballistic chilli oil – it makes this noodle soup even better.

Hunks of pork belly stewed in the Northern-style Gang Hay Lay ($13.90) are easy to like. The cinnamon-dominated, cashew-littered curry is round and gentle against more sticky rice.

While the Northern Thai dishes are offered cheaply to lure you into trying something beyond massaman, the De Lanna team have also updated the presentation of this street food favourite. Massaman Lamb Shank ($22.90) has a protruding bone and blackened pieces of cassia. It hits your nose with menthol-like aromatics, though the gravy itself is fruity and sweet.

While it's likely to be popular, it's a bit sweet for my palate so I'm more inclined to recommend the skewers of Moo Ping ($2/each) that can be found in every market and street corner in Thailand.

They’re made super-tender by an overnight marination in milk, spices and herbs, then served with tamarind relish that balances sweet and sour well. I’d go back to eating Thai more often if this was my local - especially since with no liquor licence in the works, they're currently allowing free BYO.

De Lanna Thai Street Cuisine
220 Addison Road, Marrickville
Ph: (02) 9569 4709

De Lanna Thai Street Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Travel - The Cottage

Like much of our drought-stricken state, Scone was a bit of a dust bowl when I visited in the early part of winter.

The contrast was particularly stark as we descended from the misty heights of the Barrington Tops.

This rather epic drive worked up quite an appetite, which - as both a steakhouse and the premier restaurant in Scone - The Cottage seemed well-placed to address.

You’ll find it on Kelly Street, the main thoroughfare of Scone, which is also home to a number of historic pubs and buildings. Set back from the street, the renovated 1860s cottage is softly lit with a wraparound verandah.

If you enter from the parking at the rear, you’ll find courtyard dining spaces that would likely delight in summer.

And, if you dare to investigate a little further, you’ll find an open hatch providing a glass window into their eerily lit meat fridge. Large slabs of beef hang on a row of shiny metal hooks. For some the aesthetic might be a bit serial killer gory, but I like The Cottage’s pride in their dry ageing of your future steak.

The restaurant’s interior is warm and inviting, particularly on this cold wintery night. Padded and patterned dining chairs plus an extensive art collection add some colourful interest to the softly lit, beige spaces.

We’re quickly made to feel at home with warmed Sonoma sourdough that's followed us from Sydney, and a clean, dry Tilse’s Apple Truck Cider ($12) from the foothills of the nearby Barrington Tops.

The short, one-page menu is - as you'd expect - dominated by the aforementioned dry ageing meat. The beef selection is fleshed out with a short list of specials, including Sydney Rock Oysters ($22/6) from Port Stephens served with a sauce gribiche (this version tastes light on egg).

We keep our attention seaward with BBQ’ed Prawn Tails ($26) served with taramasalata, cucumber jelly and dukkah sprinkled over nasturtium oil. It’s an unusual combination - the salty cured roe is quite dominant on the palate - but it all hangs together. It’s best when helped along by the dry, grapefruit-driven 2015 Joseph Drouhin Chablis ($75).

Potato Gnocchi ($36) made with 'Gary’s best mushrooms', burnt butter and sage is a little less exciting under a hat of edible blooms and waxy rather than pungent/chalky cheese.

Despite the high price point, mains like the high-topped Beef, Red Wine and Mushroom Potted Pie ($38) arrive with the plate looking rather bare. While the puff pastry-topped pie eaten with mash is filling, for a balanced meal you're clearly expected to flesh out your meal with vegetable sides.

Charred on the outside and served with buttered maple chestnuts, Crisp Brussels Sprouts ($16) would have been just the ticket if the sprouts in question had been smaller in size - while I loved the crisp leaves, they were a bit of a boring, chew-fest in the middle.

The 400g Sirloin Steak ($42) presented on the bone, was the highlight of our meal. The grass-fed and hormone-free Manning Valley beef is dry-aged onsite for a minimum of six weeks, ensuring it is very full-flavoured. It generally comes with hand-cut chips, but The Cottage was happy to swap them out for mash. Café de Paris Butter ($2.50) is another surcharge, but I’d judge it as worthwhile when you’re wading through this much meat.

Not feeling inclined to drop more coin, we skipped dessert and headed back to the open fireplaces at Strathearn Park Lodge, wishing we'd been smart enough to buy marshmallows.

The Cottage
196 Kelly Street, Scone
Ph: (02) 6545 1215

The Cottage Scone Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Bodyfit Eats

The canary yellow exterior of Bodyfit Miranda is hard to miss. It takes up the lower part of an unusually stacked building, topped by the Metro Hotel.

As a consequence the crowd at the complex’s eatery, Bodyfit Eats, is a curious blend of gym types dressed in branded Bodyfit active wear, and hotel guests with suitcases.

It’s an attractive, modern and airy space – perhaps a bit too breezy on this cold, grey morning – with walls lined with blonde wood struts and fake greenery, and cushioned, gold basket chairs.

A counter takes up the length of one wall, with a long grey banquette extending along the other. Sports are playing on a large flat screen television, while Madagascar is being screened on a second television hovering over the gated kiddy pen.

While I admit I was a bit worried that I was going to be drinking protein shakes and eating salad for breakfast, owner Khalil Akka assured me that Bodyfit Eats has something for everybody. Five minutes later, there I was staring at a parade of tight glutes with The Hangover ($17.50) gripped in one hand. Oozing barbeque sauce, this brekky burger sees a Brasserie Bread milk bun packed to capacity with two eggs, double bacon, two hash browns, cheese and (if you ask me) a superfluous layer of avocado. It feels a bit cheeky, if you’ll pardon the pun, but proves Khalil’s point nicely.

By utilising Stonegrill technology, Khalil has made Bodyfit Eats at all day affair. Loaded brunch plates, like Halloumi Corn Fritters ($17.20), give way to lunchtime burgers and cook at the table fun. I find it hard to think about lunch when faced with this mountainous breakfast plate stacked high with corn-dense patties, avocado, quinoa, flash-fried kale, baba ghanoush, grilled halloumi and poached eggs, all drizzled with salsa. It’s tasty stuff, though the rocket and baby spinach leaves have seen better days.

Khalil has installed Shishir Kharel in his kitchen, boasting of his experience at Nulla Nulla, what he terms “Cronulla’s greatest café." Kharel also did time in the kitchens of the Shangri-La Hotel working as a line chef on banquets.

You’ll find he has put his own spin on the classic hotel breakfast favourite – Eggs Benny ($17.40) – by throwing seeded mustard into the Hollandaise sauce. You can customise it with bacon, salmon or an average ham slice, and your choice of bread.

Or you can skip bread completely and eat Kharel’s quirkier Avocado Eye ($22). Expecting some side-eye from my dining companion who passionately hates cooked avocado, I was surprised to find the egg-filled avocado halves had been very gently oven-baked, so as not to really heat them. So only order this one if you can cope with just-set egg. The corn-topped avocado eyes are sat on a home-style salad with asparagus and lean chorizo, lashed with so much sticky-sweet balsamic dressing I’m not even sure if you could call this dish healthy?

What I liked about Bodyfit Eats is that please-all food is generous and not a carbon copy of what you’ll find everywhere else. The coffee is solid without being remarkable across a large Latte ($4/large) and strong, small Flat White ($4). While you can have your protein shakes, there are also juices, like Sunset Punch ($6) - a slightly salty blend of beetroot, apple and carrot - that made me feel like I was at least participating in this whole Bodyfit caper a little bit.

Disclosure: I didn't do a workout.

Bodyfit Eats
522 Kingsway, Miranda
Ph: (02) 9531 0523

Bodyfit Eats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Coya

It’s not often I’m blindsided by a restaurant. Coya had me struggling to untangle just how a gun chef like Ashraf Saleh ended up cooking French Arabic dishes in a suburban strip mall deep within the Northern Beaches.

It’s actually my first visit to the leafy green, ute-lined streets of Cromer, home to a host of successful tradies. The joy of Google Maps makes it easy to locate, so I'm soon taking an exploratory stroll along the short strip mall. You'll find a hairdresser-come-fashion-boutique; a wood-panelled curry house that looks straight from the 1970s; a bottle shop; and this surprisingly attractive, modern restaurant.

We live locally, our kids go to school locally, there was a vacancy, so we took it,” owner Kit Saleh explains, as she gets me drinking the well-priced 2013 Pinnaroo Chardonnay ($11/glass, $40/bottle). That was almost nineteen months ago.

What you’ll find on the plate is a bizarre and inventive collection of dishes that take French techniques and integrate them seamlessly with Arabic flavours. Tasmanian Salmon Nayeh ($26) keeps the delicate raw fish centralised against lime, thinly sliced cucumber, coriander and a sumac vinaigrette; with lemon gel providing some textural interest, and just the right amount of red chilli keeping it lively on the palate.

You’ll find the same five-star hotel symmetry and elegance in the King Prawns ($26). Five sumac-crusted crustaceans sit in an orange pool of piquillo pepper puree on a vivid magenta web of raspberry vinaigrette. While the colours are definitely eye-catching, I’m delighted to report the well-integrated flavours - tangy, fruity and sweet - are the point.

While entrée and main prices do seem steep, there’s a trick to dining at Coya that I’m going to clue you in on: they’re not expecting you to order à la carte. While half-price deal scalping forces Coya to keep their listed menu prices high, better value can be achieved by opting to pay full price on their multi-course menus. Choose from Three-Course ($49/person); Four-Course ($59/person) or the whole Six-Course ($66/person) shebang. They can do them as vegetarian too, including dishes like Fried Cauliflower ($26) with seven well-handled fried cauliflower florets decked out with lemon, chilli, tahini and radish salad. Dusted with salt and spice, these little brown trees are all too easy to keep popping in your gob.

Peeking out from under wafer thin sheets of fermented pumpkin, Grilled Eggplant ($26) is even more exciting.

The blocks of eggplant are prepared and cooked beautifully, like blocks of tofu, then adorned with dates and grilled haloumi, then drizzled with herb oil and tangy pomegranate molasses. It is full-flavoured vegetarian, and a really inventive and original dish.

Shish Barak ($38) proved the menu highlight with seven toothsome, well-formed duck dumplings arranged in a syrupy cauliflower velouté.

The elegant simplicity sees it edge out a more intense Angus Short Rib ($38) that peeks out from under a veritable vegetable garden of romanesco broccoli, flash fried kale, squash and carrots. The well-cooked, premium quality beef does have a particularly appealing bite.

Desserts are also colourful, quirky and idiosyncratic, running from a simple Rhubarb Vacherin ($19) with mascarpone, fenced in by bright meringue shards, to an airy Passionfruit Souffle Mousse ($19) that eats like tangy, flavoured air.

With enough acidity to keep it from being cloying, it's arranged under a lightly chewy pillow of passionfruit marshmallow.

Under colourful tuile sails draped in Persian fairy floss, the Halawa Marquise ($19) drizzled with green pistachio crème anglaise is so over the top it could be a children’s party dish. Why is it then, I can't stop eating it? I eventually drag my spoon away and leave the restaurant chuckling to myself about finding this Saudi Arabian chef who marches to the beat of his own drum in the wilds of Cromer. Yes, Coya is worth the trip.

Thanks to AGFG for arranging my visit.

1/61-63 Carawa Road, Cromer
Ph: (02) 9981 7053

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

Travel - Teddy Picker's

From the outside, Teddy Picker’s has the bland uniformity that seems common to so much of Canberra.

Even the dog bar is clearly signposted, with three silver bowls arranged in an orderly row.

Wondering if I had chosen the right sort of café, I was delighted to open the door to see an interior that makes soaring bare concrete the centerpiece.

As much as I’ve come to hate Edison bulbs, as a symbol of design artifice over substance, the industrial wall-mounted versions are visually appropriate to this minimalist, industrial looking setting. The only thing I’d lose is the painted grey band - it distracts from the beauty of the exposed concrete walls.

Upstairs there’s a curiously artificial lounge room decked out with couches. The furniture mostly keeps to the café’s monochrome colour palette. An old school television set joins an assortment of objects that continue into the floating bookshelf that divides the main dining room from the busy coffee counter.

Bar from the tea collection and house-made pickles, it's all a bit pointedly hipster for me, down to the sawn-off water glasses.

The House Blend ($4) scrubbed up well enough in a latte and flat white, though I found myself getting bored after a few mouthfuls. Suspect I should have coughed up the extra buck to try the Premium Blend ($5).

From ‘our favourite plates’ we opted for the Spanish Snack ($17) that teams a spicy Black Forest chorizo with two fried eggs, hash browns, coriander and house-pickled jalapenos. We’re a bit surprised to see that’s all the plate contains – it’s my view that eggs call for toast to soak up all that runny, yolky goodness – so we add on some Toast ($8) to make the Hilltops free range eggs from near Cowra sing. With the toast, we're surprised that we also have to ask for butter.

By the time my Eggs Benedict Hack ($22) lands, I’m getting the distinct impression that Canberra hates carbs. While it did mention they were replacing the usual English muffins with hashbrowns and chilli jam, I was surprised the potato products weren't big enough to sit as a base. This meant the average ham, poached eggs and light, lemony Hollandaise were whacked directly onto a cold plate.

To my palate the accompanying chilli jam had too much tomato and not enough heat, but all was not lost. Teddy Picker's have a great house-made chilli sauce. It’s very runny, but has good heat and flavour. To make the lack of bread-like objects work for people who actually eat carbs, we opt to create a shared breakfast plate from both dishes. We do it quickly, but as I eat my cold breakfast, I can’t express clearly enough: it’s Canberra, it’s winter, you gotta heat the plates.

Teddy Picker's
Unit 53, 65 Constitution Avenue, Campbell
Ph: n/a

Teddy's Pickers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review - Ho Jiak

When a chef is proud enough of his staff meals to post them on Instagram, you really get the sense that they cook for the sheer joy of feeding people. Junda Khoo’s enthusiasm for the modern Malaysian dishes he presents is what drew me back to Ho Jiak Haymarket once again.

All that really needs to be said about the Indomee Buttermilk Truffle ($39) is come and eat it already! You’ll have to hurry though, because truffle season is almost at a close. The aroma of the shaved black truffles hits you as soon as this bowl of spicy fried noodles lands. Buttermilk cream is a great vehicle for extending the flavour of the funky fungi, with red onions providing some balancing sweetness. It’s very cheffy without being stuffy in either attitude or presentation.

Chook wings dusted with buttery salted egg yolk, Kiam Ah Nui Kay ($12), are excellent drinking snacks. I ate a version of this dish at Momoda in Canberra the day before, and Ho Jiak easily wiped the floor with it. Punctuated with curry leaves, and twice-cooked whilst avoiding being over-cooked or greasy, they’re something you’re going to enjoy stuffing in your gob against Tiger Beer ($8) or the very drinkable Framingham Classic Riesling ($15/glass).

Sang Chye Hniau Kor ($20) will likely expand your beliefs about the capabilities of lettuce. The green mound of steamed lettuce cups arrive ringed by toothsome Chinese mushrooms. Both make for compelling eating against garlic and oyster sauce.

It was a bit of palate relief too, in a meal that quickly spiraled out of control into a feast of epic proportions.

Nui Choay Cim ($45) is an impressive meal centerpiece, as it is topped with whole blue swimmer crab. It cuts an ominous claw-forward stance on a bed of silky steamed century, duck and chicken egg like a Malay chawanmushi. It’s hard work and messy, so only order it if you’re prepared to do the hard yards extracting crabmeat to sprinkle over your savoury custard.

I’m a bit of a rendang aficionado, so I viewed the Crispy Rendang KFC ($38) with a bit of suspicion. For me this particular curry is all about coconut and long fibres of beef, so it's probably not surprising that I didn't love this tomato-heavy version. I will say the crisp chook was cooked very nicely, and it will no doubt appeal to many.

By the time I hit the Kari Claypot ($45) – a huge clay bowl of barramundi, okra, cabbage and eggplant in creamy coconut-based curry – I was seriously running out of stomach real estate.

Luckily dessert goes to a separate stomach because the warm Pulut Hitam ($9) – black glutinous rice drizzled with coconut milk – here is seriously good. It’s got a comforting, homely appeal that has me thinking fond thoughts about curling up in bed.

Teh Tarik Affogato ($12) ensured I had enough hot kopi (hot coffee) in the tank to get home with my eyes still open. While as you can see the temptation to order everything is strong at Ho Jiak, remember you can also visit for a simple, well-priced, one-dish dinner.

NOTE: You can read a previous review of this restaurant HERE.

Ho Jiak
92 Hay Street, Haymarket
Ph: (02) 8040 0252

Ho Jiak 好吃 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Travel - Momoda

Momoda was a three-week old fledgling restaurant when I dined at the beginning of the month. It’s an expansive space, divided into three distinct sections; taking up a Northbourne Avenue-facing slot in the Melbourne Building.

With easy (paid) parking just across the road, it was just the ticket for a modern Chinese lunch during my recent Canberra sojourn. The menu reads very well, promising big flavours like salty egg yolk, Sichuan chilli salt, and Malaysian Bukit Mertajam-style curry, delivered in the form of modern street-food offerings. Yep, that’s a fancy way of saying small and large share plates, matched to a hip craft beer, wine and cocktail list.

Ushered away from the fancy main rooms into the long, barn-like side space, we shook off the road dust with two local beers. Opting for schooners rather than pints, because we still had some way to travel, we found Barley Griffin Pale Ale ($8) to be an enjoyable easy-drinker throwing grassy, herbaceous notes, while the Zierholz German Ale ($8) felt lighter in flavour, reminding us of TsingTao.

The ante is upped on the classic beer and spring roll pairing with Momoda’s Mongolian Kangaroo Spring Roll ($8/2). It’s generously stuffed with lean, tasty ‘roo, and lightly dusted with Sichuan chilli salt, making it a definite winner.

You’ll probably want to move on to cocktails with the Lemongrass and Coriander Cured Salmon ($14.80) as it’s quite a light dish. The delicately cured fish slices are dripping with a gentle kombu crème and scattered with crisp apple and soy sago. It’s easy to like, though the fat slabs of salmon could be cut a little smaller for improved chopstick friendliness.

As for the drinks, the seven-strong cocktail list certainly offers up some unique beverages. Penang Curry ($18) takes vodka and Aperol and combines them with homemade curry syrup sweetened with tamarind. It arrives garnished with a freshly cut red capsicum flower that gives the drink an attractive aromatic dimension, in addition to it being surprisingly easy to drink. Suan Mei Tang ($18) takes underground vanilla vodka, tequila and mandarin liqueur and mixes them with Chinese prune juice. Not only will this drink keep you regular, it’s actually quite likeable, in an accessible bourbon and cola kind of way. Smoky, earthy and sweet elements meld together well under a row of speared prunes and lemon peel.

The promised Confit Mud Carp Croquettes ($14/3) were switched out for scallop croquettes on the day I dined. They were accessible and creamy but light in the flavour department. The funky black squid ink reduction was where the action was, though it was in relatively short supply in comparison to the creamy balls made to look like Italian meatballs under alfalfa and shaved Manchego cheese.

With friendly co-owner Irean Tan on the floor, our bill is made all the cheaper by being guided into a Two Course Express Lunch ($15) that delivered us the single spring roll I talked about earlier and a bowl of 14-hour Slow Braised Ox Cheek (normally $29) with rice. It’s a quality, tender meat, though the centre of the cheek is totally unaffected by the mild Bukit Mertajam curry sauce. Mowing through the meat is thus a bit boring and beefy, with spongy fried tofu pieces and sweet potato chips providing spots of mild interest. More chilli heat would give this curry better balance.

Taiwan FC Wings ($10) rounded out our savoury courses. Salty egg yolk, red chilli and Thai basil read like they were going to pack a punch, but this fried chook was also surprisingly mild. Eat ‘em over the table – the not-very salty egg yolk dusts us both with yellow snow.

While it's still early days, to my palate Momoda underplays flavour. For me this led to some disappointment, because their menu talked a big game. What they did get exactly right was their Asian-inspired dessert. It's called the Black Angel ($9) - a ball of earthy black sesame ice cream rolled in charcoal bamboo crumble and then drizzled with salty condensed milk. Get one each, lest it lead to an at the table snowball fight.

Melbourne Building,
39-47 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra
Ph: (02) 6262 9814

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

Travel - Raku

Raku is a very slick operation. Despite being rammed on the Monday night we dined, we were quickly seated under on a tan leather banquette and low-backed bucket chair inside the low-lit, minimalist dining room.

A steady parade of shadow puppet diners move across the lit screens to exit the restaurant. As well as providing our entertainment, the patterned panels neatly section off service nooks and a row of intimate private dining spaces underneath the bamboo lined ceiling. In direct contrast to the austerity of the space, the friendly and opinionated floor team are quick to make us feel welcome. They clearly love the food they’re presenting, and are well versed in taking control of your meal’s pacing and design, especially if you find the menu overwhelming. I found it overwhelming, but mostly because I wanted to eat everything.

Kicking off with an elegant but funky Sake Highball ($15) combining junmai sake, Regal Rogue Rose Vermouth and toasted coconut shrub lengthened with soda, I made a series of careful selections from the extensive menu. It was immediately evident that owner and executive chef Hao Chen has really built upon his time at Sydney’s Tokonoma, expanding his repertoire of creative and exciting modern Japanese dishes.

With the restaurant name itself referencing a hand-made Japanese pottery style that celebrates texture and intense colour, it should be no surprise that our raw bar selection of Nama Kaki ($4/each) arrived in an ice-filled ceramic decorated with luminous green ice. The creamy Pambula oysters are accentuated, rather than dominated, by diced cucumber and a tozasu dressing made from rice vinegar, dashi, soy, sugar and bonito.

Hot on its heels, Shikaniku Tartare ($20), arrives perched upon white pebbles. A pink mound of diced venison bound with honey yuzu koshyo is delivered to your waiting lips on a crisp nori cracker studded with puffed rice. It’s the kind of mouthful that leaves you grinning inanely, and the people at the next table discreetly asking the waiter what you just ate.

We pull back with the simplicity of Tamago ($8) - Hao-san’s signature house-baked Japanese omelette, coloured with squid ink. Sweet and savoury, it has a pleasurable texture and a lingering effect on the palate. Without being asked, staff harmonise our meal with our Sake Experience ($55/person), which kicks off with Chiyo Shuzo Shinomine Kimoto. This junmai ginjo sake from the Nara region is fresh with good acidity.

Our sakes are presented by a knowledgeable, young sake sommelier, who knows when to stop with bite-sized descriptions that integrate well with our food delivery. The Akishika Shuzo Okarakuchi proves my favourite drop, with a wine-like, minerality and dryness that makes it a perfect fit with our sushi show-stoppers from the signature nigiri list.

Otoro ($20) – Japanese bluefin tuna belly – is opened up with tiny parallel cuts and expertly charcoal seared. This technique allows rich, melted belly fat to lubricate the passage of the still-toothsome raw fish.

A soy jelly disc cuts through the richness of creamy New Zealand scampi dusted with shaved foie gras in Tenaga Ebi ($23.50). A hint of earthy truffle fills out the mid-palate, and I have to bite my lip to stop myself screaming: hit me again!

While I’d geared up for the Unagi Foie Gras ($13.50) with Tainwanese eel, foie gras, and dried red shiso flakes to be the winner, it’s hard to compete with perfection. Creamy with a yeasty, almost Promite-edge, this piece of nigiri sushi does make me notice that Hao-san's sushi rice is insanely good.

From the Nagano prefecture, Chikuma Kizan Sanban is a little bit sweet, because the fermentation process was stopped early to retain more residual sugar. While not quite my thing, I did enjoy it with Japanese eel – Unagi Kapayaki ($19) – decked out with the unusual combination of jalapeno, fennel, mustard seeds and grilled tomato. It’s gooey, fatty and flavoursome, though as the chilli is subtle, better when combined with wasabi, and followed by a foray into the dish of pickled ginger.

While the deboned, duck fat confit chicken wings in Tebasaki ($14) certainly provide an unctuously different way to eat chook; I found the combination with smoked miso butter a little muddy. It could also be that I was maxing out on richness, after ordering all the hero dishes.

To labour the point, we end with five toothsome slices of Aburi Otoro ($38) – seared bluefin tuna belly served tataki under amiyaki truffle and foie gras with sesame and a harmoniously sweet sauce. It neatly rules out dessert, but luckily the Kameman Shuzo sake from Kumamoto makes a lovely stand in. This brown rice sake has the exterior of the rice polished off completely and tastes of honey and hazelnuts.

It’s a lovely finish to a meal that, while obviously modern Japanese, also felt like a return to basics. What I liked most about  Raku is that here, clever combinations and skilful techniques, are both wielded to let premium produce better speak.

Shop DG36C, Canberra Centre
148 Bunda Street, Canberra
Ph: (02) 6248 6869

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

Food News - World's Best Sausages

While many countries can claim expertise in the barbeque, Australia has a special place when it comes to snags. The humble sausage has certainly changed a lot over my lifetime. Formerly made from a collection of fillers, fat, gristle and meaty unmentionables, Australia now produces some amazing snags. We’ve branched out from beef sausages into pork, lamb, turkey, duck, chicken, kangaroo, crab and crocodile to name but a few. So it should come as no surprise that an Aussie team of butchers dubbed the Australian Steelers took out the trophy for the World’s Best Pork Sausage at the World Butchers Challenge in Belfast, Ireland earlier this year.

All this month (August) you can eat their winning pork, provolone and truffle snag at home just by visiting on of the Australian Steelers’ home butcheries. In Sydney that means heading to see team member Colin Garrett at Colin’s Butchery in Zetland, or Adam Stratton and Paul Brady at Tender Gourmet Butchery which have stores in Macquarie Park, East Gardens, Bondi Junction or Hornsby.

At home we did a comparison between Tender Gourmet's award-winning Pork Truffle and Provolone Sausage ($10.50/500g) and their standard Pork Snag ($8.50/500g) against mash and apple sauce, with Brussels sprouts passed separately for a classic winter dinner. While I was very taken with the competition winning snag, my dining companion preferred the straight up pork sausage. Both were kid-friendly (well cat friendly in my case), and lean without being dry. While they're certainly classy enough for dinner, the simplicity of the plain pork snag made me want to wrap it up in a slice of soft, processed white bread with charred onions and lashings of barbeque sauce.

Tender Gourmet Butchery
71-91 Spring Street, Bondi
Ph: (02) 8095 8702


Food News - American Stone Fruit

While I’m normally a big fan of buying local when it comes to fruit and vegetables, I found it hard to pass up the chance to try American cherries. I blame too many episodes of Twin Peaks in the Nineties, watching Dale Cooper, the FBI special agent (played by Kyle MacLachlan) assigned to solve Laura Palmer's murder eating cherry pie in the Double R Diner.

What I found was pretty impressive! The luscious red Northwest Cherries out of Washington State are savoury and flavoursome, and the sweeter paler Ranier types to my tastebuds scrub up even better. They’re only available now, in our winter months, so they’re not competing with our local cherry growers. What they have done to our local cherry industry however, is raised the benchmark for cherries across the board. After eating these Ranier cherries, I suspect we still have a way to go!

I’m also nuts for donut peaches but here in Australia we only grow white ones, so I tried Family Tree Farms’ peach pie peach without any guilt at all.

This yellow donut peach is pretty tasty all on its own, but if you want the full American experience, segment it and cut out the seed, nuke it in the microwave for a minute, and then add cream (or ice cream) and a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs for an instant peach pie.

You can try any of the American stone fruits I have mentioned, as well as Plucots (plum apricot hybrids), at various Harris Farm outlets, Galluzzo Fruiterers in Glebe, Antico's Fruit World in Northbridge or at Costco.