I dined as a guest of Pepper Lunch; all opinions are my own. Pepper Lunch has brought its sizzling-plate Japanese food to Canberra! I was super excited to attend their launch event – if only we could find it! After wandering up and down Bunda Street, we finally spotted the store next to Oliver Brown, and it was on like Donkey Kong. I started out with a bowl of miso soup ($3.50), with a beautifully salty white miso and seaweed, plus silken and fried tofu inside (yum!). The staff were friendly and welcoming as they brought out our meals, explaining that the plate is served at 260 degrees (what?!), and that before eating the giant rib-eye steak ($24.90) I’d ordered, I needed to slather their specialty pepper butter over my meat. Ok, if I must! The rib-eye was sizzling hot, and pre-sliced for ease of enjoyment. The meat was beautifully tender (I could cut thinner pieces with chopsticks alone), with great marbling, and the beauty of the hot plate is being able to cook it to your liking without a long wait. I really loved the pepper flavour from the butter – it added so much to the beef – and the vegies broke up the meal nicely. Pepper Lunch opens today – check it out!
Pepper Lunch, 88-96 Bunda Street (next to Oliver Brown) Canberra, http://www.pepperlunch.com.au/
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Reviewing this place twice is ok, but three times is excessive. Well, in my quest to share the best sushi experience in Tokyo, I did venture away from my beloved Sushi Zanmai in Akihabara and tried their flagship Tsukiji store. So, here’s how it went. Unlike in Akihabara, this Sushi Zanmai is multi-storey (oooooh), and at lunchtime it was pumping. We waited about 15 minutes for a table, and then were taken upstairs. Unfortunately our sushi chef was under the pump and had three groups of diners to look after at the counter, along with the table orders, so service was very slow. We started out with green tea and miso, sharing a bowl of the seaweed miso (so good). Next was the tempura squid, which was quite a good size portion and had a really lovely crispiness, along with plenty of salt to season. Then it was sushi time. We went for the classic favourites, having multiple serves of aburi salmon, before another go at the saba – sadly there was a bit too much wasabi on our pieces to fully enjoy this one. The unagi was excellent though – it just melted in your mouth. The verdict? Stick to Akihabara, or go at an off-peak time.
Sushi Zanmai, 4-11-9, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
This was a mostly icecream dessert, so here it goes for #icecreamthurs this week! Let me say straight up, White Rabbit has beautiful cocktails and delicious desserts. This is a great place for a special treat, and I started by ordering The Dodo ($20), with gin, orange bitters, lemon and blueberry syrup hiding under a thick layer of passionfruit foam. Yum, yum, yum. This was utterly delightful – a nice balance between sweet and tart, I will be back for this drink. For dessert, I ordered the fried brioche sandwich ($16), with peanut butter gelato and raspberry swirl sorbet. When the dish came out, it was clear that the brioche was more soldiers than sandwich, topped with a nut crumble (be warned those with allergies, this is not noted on the menu) and edible flowers. The brioche was very rich, but somehow dipping it into the raspberry jam and melting icecream helped. The peanut butter flavour was great in the super creamy icecream, and although it took a while to find the raspberry swirl, when I did it added a great tartness to the otherwise very sweet dish. This is one for the sweet-tooths, to be sure.
White Rabbit Cocktail Room, 65 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra ACT,
It’s been a while since I last went to Monster, but I was equally impressed on this visit. Stopping in for a solo lunch at 3pm (as you do), I went for a share plate which I was told would be equivalent to a main. The pulled lamb shoulder ($29) was calling my name, so I placed my order, and basically 5 minutes later had my meal. I am convinced their chef is actually The Flash. Wow. The meal itself was beautifully presented, with a very generous scattering of pistachio nuts and pomegranate seeds on top of the hulking pieces of lamb. Propped up and hiding the dollops of fresh yoghurt were several fried (not battered) vine leaves and a new flavour for me – brik, a Tunisian pastry which was salty and crisp. You guys, this was super classy lamb. The pieces were so melty and delicious, and there was an (I love being able to use this word) unctuous sauce that I mopped up with my complimentary bread. All the textures you could ask for were there – crunch from the pistachios, juice from the pomegranate, crisp from the vine leaves and brik and creaminess from the yoghurt. The cross-cultural flavours were utter heaven. Absolutely perfect comfort food I will be back for.
Monster Kitchen and Bar, Hotel Hotel, 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Acton ACT, http://www.hotel-hotel.com.au/eat-and-drink/monster/
I was super pumped for ramen at Himeji, but when Mum and I saw the Funamori (sushi and sashimi boat, $62) on the menu, we couldn’t resist. Dad ordered the Oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl) and a couple of bao to try. We sampled it while waiting for our boat – the oyakodon was beautiful, with lovely, tasty rice, perfectly tender chicken and sweet onion. Then our boat arrived! Oh my! So full of sushi and sashimi and beautiful seafood! We didn’t know where to start! All of the fish was fresh and flavoursome, and the sashimi cuts were all excellent, except for a couple of slightly too-thick and chewy lower-grade tuna pieces. The natural oysters were lovely, and the aburi salmon rolls were a highlight with perfectly seared outers. My favourite was actually the ceviche, served with a yam (?) crisp and deep-fried prawn head. It had a wicked amount of spice and excellent texture, especially when paired with the chips. Our favourite nigiri sushi was the unagi (eel), with the thick sweet sauce on top, but the salmon was excellent all around. We were so full by the end – such an indulgent feast and excellent service! Highly recommended.
Himeji Ramen & Izakaya, 22-24 Grote Street, Adelaide SA, http://www.ramenizakaya-himeji.com
My dream has come true. There is an authentic Japanese izakaya in Australia. Tokyo Bird sits in a little Surry Hills laneway and fulfills all my izakaya needs – an extensive drinks menu, lots of ‘little bites’ to eat and a vibe that’s buzzing. We started with cocktails – I chose the Breakfast Martini, with gin, curacao, lemon and yuzu marmalade. There is so much citrus happening there that my cheeks puckered, definitely in a good way. Dinner started with the Assorted Pickles ($6) and Katsu Chicken Nuggets ($9). The pickles were lightly done and dusted in spicy togarashi seasoning – excellent for nibbling slowly. The katsu nuggets were the best thing ever – tender chicken bits deep fried in panko and served with kewpie mayo. Needless to say, they disappeared very quickly. We then picked four yakitori dishes. I loved the Negima (chicken thigh with shallot) – tender, charred nicely and basted in the magic yakitori sauce, it was probably my favourite of the four. The Tonton (pork belly) was lovely and fatty, and the Hatsu (chicken hearts) were tasty, although slightly tougher than the other meats. Finally, we both loved the Nasu (eggplant and miso) – beautifully salty with creamy eggplant, we were in izakaya heaven. I will be back as soon as I possibly can!
Tokyo Bird, 2/226-228 Commonwealth Street (entry on Belmore Lane), Surry Hills NSW, http://www.tokyobird.com.au/
I was so impressed by the variety at the Portrait Cafe that I really struggled to pick only one things for lunch – gourmet pie? Beetroot risotto? African stew? They have it all! I ended up going for something more classic – a Cuban sandwich ($15) with grilled ham, pork belly, sweet potato, gruyere, onions, pickles, aioli and mustard. Yeah, that’s quite a lot of delicious things packed into one sandwich. Luckily they all went together perfectly – pork is a perfect meat to pair with slightly sweet things, so the soft sweet potato and the sweet burger bun complemented the double pork hit perfectly. The pork belly had so much flavour and the saltiness from the ham was amazing. I’m also a bit aioli fan, so really this was a winner on all fronts. I hadn’t realised it also came with chips, which were nicely cooked (perhaps a tad soft for my taste) and generously heaped onto the plate. This was a great value, delicious lunch, and whilst I couldn’t finish all of it, I’d definitely come back to try some of their more exotic offerings.
Portrait Cafe, National Portrait Gallery, King Edward Terrace, Parkes ACT, http://www.portrait.gov.au/content/cafe-and-shop