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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Yayoi, Sydney

Kama taki gohan being steamed at the table at Yayoi, Sydney

The golden embryo. It's what's been missing from every bowl of polished rice you've ever eaten. You can find it at Yayoi, a Japanese teishoku restaurant which arrived in Sydney just over a month ago. Yayoi is the first outlet to open outside of Japan, a chain of more than 250 restaurants that trade there as Yayoiken. The name might have been shortened for the Australian market, but their specialty is the same: teishoku or set meal trays built around special steamed rice, cooked fresh at your table.

Yayoi takes over the spot that once held Wagamama on Bridge Street. The internal transformation is striking, a sanctuary of timber and clean lines with a calming hum of whispered conversation. It feels like there's a huge army of waitstaff when we visit -- many of whom seem a little lost at how to occupy themselves when not attending to diners -- but it does mean we're attended to quickly, with a friendly and concise explanation of the menu concept and iPad ordering system.

Edamame soy beans at Yayoi, Sydney
Edamame soy beans $4.50

The kamataki gohan is central to the teishoku set menu, a pot of freshly steamed rice that is cooked at your table. The rice is kinmemai, a special type of polished rice that maintains the kinme or golden embryo in each grain, the base component of a rice grain that is usually lost through the polishing for white rice. By maintaining the kinme, the Japanese believe the rice has enhanced flavour and nutrition. At it's simplest, it's the goodness of brown rice with the softness of white.

Our waitress immediately tips us off about the rice cooking time. It will take about 20 minutes for the rice to cook at our table, and recommends that we immediately order this as a side while we make up our minds about the teishoku set we'd like to have. It works brilliantly. Within 60 seconds, a special metal pot is brought to our table. The wooden lid is lifted to show us the raw soaked grains of rice inside before a flame is lit that will cook the rice. "Please do not lift the lid" she cautions, before she dips her head politely and hurries away.

Kama taki gohan freshly steamed rice at the table at Yayoi, Sydney
Kamitaki gohan freshly steamed rice  $8 or free as part of a teishoku set

There are fourteen types of teishoku you can order, ranging from karaage fried chicken to salmon teryaki fillets to hamburger patties made with wagyu teriyaki mince. Once we place our order, we let our waitress know so she can cancel the sides of rice from our bill. The rice is automatically included in the price for teishoku sets.

If you don't want the whole teishoku set meal, you can opt for smaller meals of steamed rice or udon combinations ($17-$24.50) or a range of standalone dishes and snacks from their Ippin menu ($4.50-$25).

The iPad menu is fiercely efficient, following the same type of instant ordering system as Wagaya and Mizuya. We're barely halfway through our starter of edamame soy beans before our waitress returns to confirm our rice is ready. Our teishoku meals arrive in quick succession shortly after.

Shima hokke shio-yaki salt-grilled Arka mackerel teishoku at Yayoi, Sydney
Shima hokke shio-yaki salt-grilled Arka mackerel teishoku $29

The teishoku meal includes an bountiful array of vegetables, sides and pickles that presents like a compartmentalised dinner set. Half the fun is lifting the lids and deciding where to start: the cloudy miso soup, the wobbly blocks of silken tofu deep-fried and then drenched with dashi stock, a ceramic pot of silken steamed egg custard, or the tiny saucer of pickles made from Japanese mustard leaf.

Shima hokke shio-yaki salt-grilled Arka mackerel teishoku at Yayoi, Sydney
Salt-grilled Arka mackerel

You can order the blue mackerel teishoku set for $26  but it's worth stumping up the extra $3 for the shima hokke or horse mackerel. It's soft and buttery, flaking off in fat slices imparted with a salty and sweet stickiness from the glaze across its surface. There are fine bones here, but these are easily avoided with some care.

Pork fillet katsu teishoku at Yayoi, Sydney
Pork fillet katsu teishoku $29

Just as impressive is the pork fillet katsu, four pieces of pork coated in a panko crumb crust that has been deep-fried until golden brown.

Pork fillet cutlets at Yayoi, Sydney
Pork fillet cutlets

The cuts of pork may be small, but each piece is unbelievable juicy and tender. Dip them in the accompanying tonkatsu sauce, a Japanese version of Worcestershire that is thick and sweet, or dab lightly in the saucer containing hot mustard and green tea salt.

A crisp Japanese beer always works a treat with fried, but they also have a good selection of sake, shochu and umeshu plum wines.

Chawanmushi savoury egg  custard at Yayoi, Sydney
Chawanmushi savoury egg custard

The chawanmushi is something to savour too, a wobbly delicacy of steamed egg custard studded with chunks of prawn, mushroom, carrot and snow pea.

And then of course there's the pot of freshly steamed rice. There's a slight chewiness to the rice, the grains clumping together in a satisfying stickiness so it can be easily eaten with chopsticks. There's a great sense of ceremony around the rice, and it's a sober reminder of the sacred role that rice plays in not just Japan, but so many cultures around the world.

Kanmi santen mori green tea creme caramel and warabi mochi dessert at Yayoi, Sydney
Kanmi santen mori $10.50
Trio of fruit, green tea creme caramel and warabi mochi 

The dessert menu is heavily weighted with green tea and red bean, but if these don't take your fancy, you can stick with the plain vanilla ice cream with fruit ($9), a banana chocolate crepe ($18) or a fruit parfait ($10.50). The last two do come with green tea ice cream.

The kanmi santen mori marries East and West on an elongated plank, a trio of sweets that includes green tea creme caramel, fresh fruits and warabi mochi, chewy cubes of bracken starch jelly rolled in matcha green tea powder.

Matcha and warabi mochi dessert with Uji green tea at Yayoi, Sydney
Matcha and warabi mochi with Uji green tea $8

The warabi mochi is oddly alluring, a firm but chewy jelly made from bracken starch that feels cool in the mouth. On the kanmi santen mori, the cubes come already doused with a sauce that tastes like golden syrup, but if you order them on their own, you can pour the syrup on at the last minute so the matcha green tea powder doesn't get too soggy.

On the side is a ceramic cup filled with Uji green tea, whisked until frothy.

Matcha and warabi mochi dessert at Yayoi, Sydney
Matcha and warabi mochi 

There's a lovely sense of occasion to dining here, the kind of spot you could nominate as an affordable but not-too-fussy date night. Small groups work well too and there's a large wooden table in the rear that could accommodate a bigger group or individuals dining on their own.

Yayoi Japanese teishoku restaurant, Sydney

Yayoi Japanese Teishoku Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Yayoi Japanese Teishoku Restaurant
Shop 2, 38-42 Bridge Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9247 8166

Opening hours:
Monday to Wednesday 12pm - 10pm
Thursday to Saturday 12pm - 11pm
Sunday 12pm - 9pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Japanese - Busshari, Potts Point
Japanese - Izakaya Fujiyama, Surry Hills
Japanese - Kabuki Shoroku, Sydney
Japanese - Miso, Sydney
Japanese - Toriciya, Cammeray

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/27/2014 01:55:00 am

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Brighton the Corner and The Pig and Pastry, Petersham

House made crumpets with caramelised pear and local Dulwich Hill honey at Brighton the Corner, Petersham

There are supermarket crumpets. And then there are homemade crumpets. They're about as different as chalk and cheese. If you've only ever known supermarket crumpets -- soft and flabby in the packet and kinda doughy unless you toast them extra long -- your life is about to change. For good.

Because homemade crumpets are a completely different experience. They're fluffy, tall and toothsome, like an English muffin crossed with sourdough. Even better news? You can get them at Brighton the Corner in Petersham - because if anything trumps homemade, it's getting someone else to make them for you.

Brighton the Corner, Petersham
Brighton the Corner on the corner of Brighton Street and Palace Street

I used to go to school in Petersham and the steep stretch that is Palace Street was a regular climb each morning. Back then, there were no coffee shops along this strip. Brighton the Corner was a corner shop, dark and dim but still holding allure with its freezer filled with chocolate and rainbow Paddlepops. Now it's a bright and airy space filled with locals: couples, young families and groups of friends clustered in corners or gathered around the communal table in the middle.

Flat white coffee and watermelon and basil house made soda at Brighton the Corner, Petersham
Flat white $3.50 and watermelon and basil house made soda $4.50

The breakfast menu runs all day with additional lunch menu items (a Smokehouse beef burger, three kinds of sandwiches and a roast cauliflower salad) kicking in from midday. There's an impressive selection of drinks too, including three kinds of house made sodas. The watermelon and basil soda is perhaps a little muted but the combination offers welcome early morning refreshment. They also do lemon thyme and apple ginger sodas plus a range of Tippity teas.

Babyccino at Brighton the Corner, Petersham

The cafe is reasonably busy by 10am but even then, we weren't expecting our coffees and drinks to take 20 minutes to arrive. We feel for the kitchen, a tiny allocation of space with just two chefs manning a barrage of dockets, but we're definitely ready for food by the time our meals arrive, about 45 minutes after ordering.

Morcilla and butifarra sausages with white and black beans at Brighton the Corner, Petersham
Sausage and beans $17
Morcilla, butifarra, white and black beans, two fried eggs and green tomato salsa

Sausage and beans is probably the heartiest item on the menu, a South American fiesta of morcilla blood sausage, butifarra Catalan sausage, two fried eggs and an avalanche of white and black beans.

Hot smoked salmon with pickled radish at Brighton the Corner, Petersham
Hot-smoked salmon with pickled radish, fennel, peas, quinoa and poached egg $17

A little lighter on the stomach is the hot-smoked salmon, hidden within a tangled garden of watercress, fennel ribbons, pickled radish and peas.

Braised brisket with potato hash at Brighton the Corner, Petersham
Braised brisket with potato hash, mojo verde, poached egg and onion rings $17

If you're looking for an excuse for fried, the braised brisket is for you. It's covered with a golden plank of hash brown and three fat onion rings sheathed in crunchy batter. There's a little zing from the drizzle of mojo verde and the poached egg yields a perfectly runny yolk that oozes languidly over everything.

House made crumpets with caramelised pear and local Dulwich Hill honey at Brighton the Corner, Petersham
House made crumpets with caramelised pear and Dulwich Hill honey butter $14

But whatever you do, make sure you order the house made crumpets. They often sell out, so order them when you sit down, not a minute later.

The crumpets might be small in diameter but they more than make up for it in taste. Their toasted surface gives way to a dense but pillowy core, still riddled with familiar plunging tunnels that soak up lashing of honey butter. The honey comes from urban beehives down the road in Dulwich Hill. Hunks of caramelised pear will give you all the vitamins you need for a healthy start.

The Pig and Pastry

Cheesecake with lavender and honey at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Cheesecake with lavender and honey $5.50

The Pig and Pastry sits on the other side of the Petersham Park, only a stone's throw from Parramatta Road, but blissfully quiet of traffic noise. It's a seven minute walk from Brighton the Corner, and the well-equipped playground provides a handy pit stop for kids big and small. Cricket buffs will know that the cricket oval -- ringed with a picturesque white picket fence -- is where Don Bradman made his first class debut.

By time you've had a go on the swings and the roundabout, you'll definitely have worked up an appetite for dessert.

Meringues at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Meringues $4

There's a lovely old-fashioned feel to the display cabinet here, heaving with housemade sweets presented on mismatched vintage crockery. It's like you've just stumbled into a Country Women's Association fete. We spend several minutes with our noses pressed up against the glass trying to make a decision.

Gluten-free pistachio brownie at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Gluten-free pistachio brownie $4.50

There are giant chocolate chip cookies with sea salt the size of your palm, clouds of meringue and miniature turrets of carrot cake that look far too cute to be eaten.

Mini carrot cakes at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Mini carrot cakes $4.50

Gingerbread milkshake and lavender lemonade at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Gingerbread milkshake $6.50 and housemade lavender lemonade $4

And then there's the gingerbread milkshake. It's a genius idea that's executed with aplomb, gutsy with cinnamon, cloves and allspice that feels like Christmas and hugs from grandma all at once. House made sodas are all the rage these days too. We're relieved to find the lavender lemonade has only a gentle hit of lavender, presented in a glass jar with a paper straw for maximum hipster appeal.

Strawberries and cream brioche cake at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Strawberries and cream brioche cake $4.50

While I'm almost tempted by the Pig and Pastry beef burger with triple cooked chips ($15.50) and the pork and apple sausage roll ($6), we stick with desserts.

Cheesecake with lavender and honey at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Cheesecake with lavender and honey $5.50

Between us we order a host of treats, from the old-fashioned simplicity of a strawberry brioche cake with a side dollop of cream to the elegant lavender and honey cheesecake graced with an undulating cats tongue biscuit.

Chocolate coffee cake at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Chocolate coffee cake $5.50

The chocolate coffee cake is a wedge of spoon-sinking comfort, garnished with cream and glistening glace cherries.

Lemon drizzle cake at The Pig and Pastry, Petersham
Lemon drizzle cake $4.50

The lemon drizzle cake is the surprise winner though, the syrup-soaked hunk deliciously chewy and caramelised at the edges.

If you needed more incentive to visit, The Pig and Pastry is celebrating its first birthday this Saturday 26th July. They'll have a kindifarm (10am - 12pm), face painting, balloons, mulled wine and... a pig on a spit! Whaddya waiting for?

EDIT: The Pig and Pastry birthday party has been rescheduled to Sunday 27 July. Details.

The Pig and Pastry, Petersham

The Pig & Pastry on Urbanspoon

The Pig and Pastry
1 Station Street, Petersham, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9568 4644

Opening hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 7.30am - 4pm
Saturday and Sunday 8am - 4pm
Closed Tuesdays

Brighton the Corner on Urbanspoon

Brighton the Corner [facebook page]
49 Palace Street, Petersham, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9572 6097

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 7am - 4pm
Saturday and Sunday 8am - 4pm
Closed Mondays

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Cafe - Brickfields, Chippendale
Cafe - Circa Espresso, Parramatta
Cafe - In The Annex, Forest Lodge
Cafe - Something for Jess, Chippendale
Cafe - The Grounds of Alexandria, Alexandria

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/23/2014 11:14:00 pm

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Whole suckling pig at the Four in Hand, Paddington

Whole suckling pig at the Four in Hand, Paddington

Whole suckling pig. It's yours at the Four in Hand in Paddington for $80 per person. You'll need at least ten people for this porcine feast, but you'll need each and every one of them to get through it all, the whole pig carved ceremoniously at the table and served with what seems like a never-ending parade of accompaniments.

Bread with butter and salt in marrow bones at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Iggy's sourdough with butter and salt in marrow bones

It was a fitting farewell for one of our own, off to conquer New York City and the world. Celebrating with food, and far too much of it, seemed wholly appropriate.

Our group was accommodated in the Four in Hand's new private dining room, an intimate space that will seat 14 at a pinch, but seated eleven of us around a large wooden table with ease. It used to be a staff dining room, but their loss is the customer's win, tucked away upstairs so you can make as much noise as you please without disturbing other guests.

Smoked fish soup at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Smoked fish soup with citrus, paprika and basil

Thick slices of Iggy's sourdough appease any early hunger pangs. The hollowed-out marrow bones filled with butter and salt provide an atmospheric touch. We're also treated to an amuse bouche of smoked fish soup, dainty cups filled with a fragrant both, accented with citrus, basil and a heavy dose of smoked paprika.

They'll happily bring around more bread too. It's tempting to dig into more but try to exercise restraint - there's pig to be had!

Whole suckling pig at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Whole suckling pig

The chaos that heralds the arrival of the suckling pig is bigger than any celebrity. He's carried in on a giant chopping board and laid down gently on a side table. Staff know to stand back and let the paparazzi of mobile phone photos take their course.

Carving the leg of the suckling pig at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Carving the leg

As staff start carving the pig, the accompaniments to our meal start landing on the table.

Salsa verde and apple butter at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Salsa verde and apple butter

The quenelle of salsa verde is a compressed version of herbage, but I'm a bigger fan of the apple butter, adding a generous dollop to my slices of pork.

Celeriac remoulade at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Celeriac remoulade

There's no shortage of vegetables here. Executive chef Colin Fassnidge seems determined to feed you your daily veggie recommendation in one sitting. There's the delicate crunch of celeriac remoulade, the salty sweet comfort of cabbage with speck, and giant florets of roasted cauliflower, in varying shades of golden brown.

Cabbage with speck at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Cabbage with speck

Roasted cauliflower at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Roasted cauliflower

Colcannon mashed potato at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Colcannon mashed potato

The colcannon mashed potato is nothing short of glorious, a copper pot filled with mouthfuls of silky smoothness. It's a holy trinity of carbs, butter and cream.

Roasted parsnips at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Roasted parsnips

There are roasted parsnips too, fabulously nutty in taste and cooked to a caramelised candy sweetness.

Suckling pig crackling skin at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Crackling skin

The pig remains the star of the show though. We're delivered successive boards of carved pig that move from the leg to the belly to the shoulder and finally the pigs head.

Carving the suckling pig at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Carving up the pig

It's fascinating to see how the pork changes in texture, fattiness and flavour as you move through the animal. The pork belly is fatty as expected, but there's a surprising tenderness in the shoulder too.

Suckling pig rib bones at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Rib bones

The staff don't tend to serve the bones unless you specifically ask for them. I put in a request and relished a couple of rib bones, still trapped with juicy and flavoursome meat.

Carving the suckling pig head at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Time to eat the head

And don't forget the pig's head either. Our finale of tongue, snout, pig's cheek and crispy pig's ears was ravaged with much gusto.

Carved suckling pig with crackling at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Suckling pig with crackling

The suckling pig was tender but the skin wasn't necessarily crackled everywhere. Some bits of skin had an audible crunch but other sections were still a little soft and determinedly chewy.

We managed to keep up with the delivery of each carved pig serving until the pig reached halfway when eating slowed down considerably. We were defeated in the end but staff will happily provide takeaway boxes for you to take home leftovers. We thought we had done pretty well until staff told us a previous group of nine had eaten the entire pig and asked for extra colcannon mashed potato!

Treacle tart with bread ice cream dessert at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Treacle tart with bread ice cream, house-made mead and cumquat $16

We still had room for dessert (separate stomach), ordering one of everything on the menu, except for the cheese board. The treacle tart with bread ice cream with crazy addictive, especially with the house-made mead that was poured at the last minute. The honey tinge of the mead added a subtle sweetness to the square of treacle tart, candied cumquat slices and scoop of nutty and caramelised bread ice cream.

Licorice poached quince with parsnip ice cream dessert at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Licorice poached quince with parsnip ice cream $16

The licorice poached quince had only a very faint tinge of aniseed but it was the parsnip ice cream that provoked the greatest reaction. It really did sing with parsnip, like a buttery smooth parsnip puree accented with sugar.

Chocolate and cornflakes dessert at the Four in Hand, Paddington
Chocolate and cornflakes $16

Usually chocolate and cornflakes includes a cornflake ice cream on a stick, but tonight we're served a deconstructed version - possibly because they realise we're sharing the dessert among us. It's a wild playground of tastes and textures, a rubble of chocolate crumbs mixed with chocolate mousse, slabs of cornflake ice cream and shards of feuilletine.

We had a fab night with wine, teas and dessert for less than $100 a head. And suckling pig lunch boxes for the next day too!

Whole suckling pig at the Four in Hand, Paddington

Four in Hand on Urbanspoon

Four in Hand
105 Sutherland Street, Paddington, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9362 1999

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 12pm - 2.30pm and 6pm til late

Sunday and Monday 12pm - 10pm
Tuesday to Saturday 12pm - 11pm

The suckling pig with accompaniments requires minimum 48 hours notice
$80 per person, for a minimum of 10 people 
An 8% service charge applies to all group bookings

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Whole suckling pig: Chophouse, Sydney
Whole suckling pig: Emperor's Garden, Haymarket
Whole suckling pig: Signorelli Gastronomia, Pyrmont
Suckling pig: Swine & Co, Sydney

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/20/2014 04:26:00 pm

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