Monkey Magic – Surry Hills, NSW

What TV Shows did you grow up with? For me, it will be Full House, The Wonder Years, Ultraman, Kamen Rider Super and of course, the Monkey Magic. Having said that, as I only came to Australia 14 years ago, I have actually never watched the more popular Japanese version that was shown in Australia back in 80s but only the Chinese version called Saiyuki (西遊記)by HK TVB. I loved that show and it truly had captured my childhood imaginations, the flying cloud on command, the wishing staff that can shrink and expand, the ability to conjure monkey clones by blowing on hairs plucked from his chest, what not to love? But how does this cult classic of a sixteenth century Chinese novel translate into food? The Pom and I are invited to the Monkey Magic restaurant in Surry Hills, so here we are, on a quest for culinary enlightenment. Monkey Magic is exceptionally easy to find on Crown Street, right opposite Billy Kwong, Marque and Bills. The restaurant may look small from the outside, but a short staircase leads to the dining area above ground is almost triple the size of the shopfront, it is a Tardis in disguise. The spacious dining room is slick and modern, motifs of nimbus clouds and the Monkey’s golden crown are painted in gold on the wooden-clad wall, shimmering under the flickering candlelight adds a touch of playfulness to the sophisticated space. We have booked a table for 7pm on Wednesday night, hence it is no surprise to find the restaurant is little quieter than usual. We are seated at the right...

Molecular Gastronomy workshop at Chef's Armoury – Rosebery, Sydney NSW

We picked flowers and grass, tossed them in little frying pan, scooped the dirt and packed it tightly into a jelly mould, flipped it out onto a plate and then pretending to eat and drink the ‘food’ we’ve just prepared on a tiny stool – games of cooking in miniature plastic kitchen used to be one of my favourite games when I was a kid, we called it, Masak-Masak, in Malay. It is still one of my favourite game to date except with real food in real kitchen with real fire. I am a very visual person and truly believe that there are no boundaries when comes to creativity, including cooking. It is something that I love doing which I get to explore and experiment with new flavours, new textures and new techniques. Whether is home-cooked classics, finesse fine dining ensemble or even the scientifically challenged molecular gastronomy (MG), I love them all. I haven’t had much experience with the latter one, in fact, none. But I have always been inspired by Heston Blumenthal and his innovative style of cooking and definitely would like to find out more about MG myself. When I heard about the MG workshops by Leigh Hudson at Chef’s Armoury during the SIFF month, I quickly grabbed the opportunity and signed up to learn some basics. With a maximum of eight students, the workshop is led by Leigh Hudson and his assistant, Eddy, at the Chef’s Armoury shop in Rosebery. They will run us through a series of MG basic theories demonstration including foam, spherification, reverse spherification and sous vide. Leigh kicks off the workshop...

Mizuya – Sydney CBD, NSW

Healthy eaters look away now. These not-so-cholesterol-friendly golden crispy tiles are definitely not for the health-conscious, they are dangerously addictive and I find myself couldn’t stop eating them! Who’d have thought a simple plate of deep-fried crispy chicken skins can be so satisfying? At times like this, it’s best to put your guilty conscience aside and just enjoy it with gusto. …and yes, animal skins are our best friends at Mizuya this particular evening. I do love loitering at Mizuya when we can’t make decision where to go for dinner, especially on a busy Friday night. With over 200 items on their Japanese izakaya menu solves all the indecisive dilemmas, not to mention an easy to use novelty touch-screen ordering system at each table makes the dining experience a hell lot more fun. The convenience of the ordering system only fingertips away can be rather dangerous, our initial plan of a bite-size dinner has eventually turns out to be a proper full-belly meal. Let’s start with my Gemini (not my star sign), the mother of all pink mocktails, it is a luscious ice blend of cranberry, apple, coconut, passionfruit and lime juice, a perfect refreshing drink to counterbalance all the fatty food to come. Besides, a brave man is never afraid of wearing pink shirt, neither a pink drink. If you are in a hurry, then Mizuya is the place to go. Food arrives at our table literally within minutes once we punch the orders in on the touch screen menu. We share a plate of spider rolls, a line of uramaki are filled crispy soft shell crab legs,...

Kansai – Sydney CBD (All you can eat!)

All-you-can-eat sushi is my best, best friend. I can smell the skeptical you from miles away, pouting a cat’s bottom in disapproval just because I went for all-you-can-eat cheapskate deal which the quality of the food are usually below par. It’s true, I don’t deny that. Usually I probably won’t go for A-Y-C-E deal that is full of raw uncooked fish for health safety reasons, but after reading what the others have to say about Kansai $28 all-you-can-eat plus the seafood do look decent and fresh from their posts, I am confident enough to give it a try and invited Helen and John along to join in for a good stomach work out. Despite they have a signboard prominently displayed on Hunter Street and also an escalator that leads straight to the restaurant hidden on the lower ground in Hunter Connection, Kansai is one of those places that you probably would have walked past a thousand times and still never know its existence. As I am waiting for others to arrive, I noticed a few pedestrians stop and have a look at the A-Y-C-E menu, but none of them are convinced and keep on moving. Helen and I are stupidly waiting outside the restaurant for John and getting anxious as there is a constant flow of customers into the restaurant but little did we know that he was exceptionally early and already sitting inside the restaurant half way through a bottle of white. For $28 per person, you can order as much as you like from the laminated pictorial menu, or you can upgrade to $38 which includes hotpot...

Sake Master Dinner at Ocean Room – Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney CBD

Kanpai! Sake – Do you like it hot or cold? I can’t say I am an expert on the fine art of fermented rice wine, an alcoholic beverage made from rice that has been appreciated since over a thousand years ago in Japan. A lost in translation, most Japanese restaurants in western countries believe that sake should be always served hot, and not cold. It has become a make-believe that if you drink your sake cold, you are an idiot; drink hot, you are a sake connoisseur. Until I was in Japan two years ago and introduced to the cold premium sake, poured into an overflowing glass sitting inside a sake wooden box to signify prosperity in abundance, my appreciation of sake had changed ever since. This is my first time back to Ocean Room since the full renovation makeover few years back. The underwater theme with air blown glass seashells chandeliers be gone, Ocean Room now resembles a tidal wave made out of 40,000 wooden cylinders engulfing the whole dining area, a dramatic design by Yasumichi Morita. But tonight we will be attending our Sake Master dinner in the private dining room upstairs. This event has been put together by the lovely Krissie at Wasamedia and two tables full of food bloggers have been invited to attend the very first sake master dinner. The dining room upstairs has been elegantly decorated with masterful Ikebana flower arrangement by head chef’s Raita Noda’s mother. We are welcomed to some briny Sydney Rock Oysters and a welcome drink of sake, served in a bamboo cup, a last minute DIY, cut from...

Tokonoma Shochu Bar & Lounge – Surry Hills, Sydney

Tokonoma, a lounge bar that prides themselves on their sochu, I believe it is the first in Sydney. Minh, Simon and I were on vacation in Malaysia and missed out on the initial event organised by Mark Comms but they were kindly enough to set an extra outing just for the three of us. A little surprise like this really does help to ease our post-holiday blues. The new-ish Tokonoma is the third venue from the same team behind the two previous Toko establishments, with one located right next door which is always buzzing with crowds. The interior inside is modern with a great moody ambiance, if not a little intimidating and always makes one self conscious whether I am under-dressed for this sophisticated space. I arrive at Tokonoma to find the girls are already clinking glasses in the sochu bar. Tokonoma is famous for its extensive range of sochu. Patrons can now savour the intricate taste and complexity of the sochu served with a single ball of ice in the glass, which has been carefully cleaved from a big block of ice. ” class=”size-medium wp-image-12964″ src=”http://www.atablefortwo.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/tokonoma-6-214×300.jpg” alt=””> We are here this evening to try their Tasting Menu at $70 per head. It is a great introduction to modern Japanese cuisine with chef Regan Porteous showcases a few of his signature dishes ideal for sharing. We move from the sochu bar to the circular banquette lounge booth for our meal. I do find the booths cosy and intimate, they are great when you need a bit of privacy especially when trying to hold a conversation and filter out some...