Tuesday, September 10, 2013

West Juliett

My first visit to West Juliett a few months back happened purely by chance. A simple wrong turn on the way to a bakery took us to this year's new addition to Marrickville cafes.

Juliett salad
Having eaten a pretty big breakfast that morning I opted for the Juliett salad (avacado, seasonal vegetables, leaves, nuts, seeds, herbs). If you automatically think of the word "boring" when salads are mentioned, then you have to give this one a try. Fresh green leaves, crunchy red cabbage, sweet carrots, lightly anise tasting fennel (my favourite ingredient in a salad), and crisp radish and cauliflower pieces, all topped off with half perfectly ripen avocado. The addition of nuts and seeds not only enhanced the flavour of the dish but also added more texture to it. This salad was deliciously fresh and light, the word "boring" doesn't even register.

French toast
My subsequent visit was, of course, very intentional and I made sure I brought my appetite with me. The French toast (ricotta, roast rhubarb, salted caramel) was definitely not your average French toast. Soft, creamy ricotta, salted caramel, sweet and sour rhubarb, what a combination! My friend's Breakfast plate (poached egg, avocado, leg ham, tomato, provolone, toast) was well portioned, the side order of chorizos proved to be an excellent choice. The toast came with a very generous serving of beautiful, smooth, soft butter.

Occupying the corner of quiet, tree lined streets, West Juliett is inviting and the doors open up to a spacious indoor dining area, including a long bar table, from where you can catch all the actions in the open kitchen. If you want to watch the world go by while sipping your coffee then grab a seat outside, the overhead heaters will keep you nice and toasty during the colder months.

Baked goods
West Juliett focuses on fresh local produce; pastries and baked goods are done in house while the coffee beans are roasted locally by White Horse Coffee and changes seasonally. Their house made soda which comes in two mixes: rhubarb+lemon+ginger and quince+lime+cinnamon are the perfect drinks on a hot summer day. Thirst quenching and super refreshing.

Make sure you get your hands on some of the baked goods proudly displayed next to the register on your way out, and by all means, one or several of those pink salt chocolate-chip cookies. They are big and chewy, with the pink salt offsetting the sweetness, simply divine and rather addictive I may add. The small pile of those perfectly baked cookies sitting on top of my kitchen counter proves it.

West Juliett: 30 Llewellyn St, Marrickville NSW 2204   West Juliett on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ume Japanese Restaurant (CLOSED)

The main dining room
Taking up the site that used to house Bistrode, Ume Japanese Restaurant is carrying on the torch of being a neighbourhood gem. The first thing I noticed after walking through the front doors were all the shochu and sake that lined the shelves behind the bar and a lovely ume (plum) blossom mural on the opposite wall. I also spotted some Japanese artefacts around the restaurant. 

It was mid week so the restaurant filled up slowly, I think our group might have been the loudest as we chatted and laughed our way through dinner. We worked our way through the al la carte menu and several sakes, including a fabulous sparkling sake. The dishes here are designed for sharing, Japanese tapas if you like, and the flavours and textures of each dish were simply tantalising. The Snapper Carpaccio (white soy, rice wine vinegar, shredded cucumber, Shiso, black sesame) was so delicate and delicious it had our whole group buzzing about it. Seared Scallop Carpaccio (soy brown butter, finger limes, young sorrel, dulse) arrived at our table looking like a flower, where the petals are made up of finely sliced scallop, citrusy and buttery, absolutely delectable.

The Riverina Lamb
The Riverina Lamb (charred, soft lamb shoulder, wasabi-pea sauce, yaki-nori, wasabi cress) got lots of praise from the table for the tender lamb and its perfect companion, the wasabi-pea sauce. The Wagyu 'Sukiyaki' Style (David Blackmore Wagyu 9+, yaki dofu, shimeji, nasturium, soy-mirin reduction, onsen tamago) was served rare and tasted heavenly. Everything on the plate just worked so well with each other.

When it came to dessert time, the decision was easy, since there were 5 of us and only 3 desserts on the menu, we ordered one of each and shared them.

Dark Chocolate 'Terrine'
First up was the Mandarin (mandarin tofu, frozen green tea, dehydrated cocoa mousse, mochi, mandarin sherbet), it was wonderfully light and refreshing with an overall delicate tart sweet flavour. The "30 Second" Black Sesame Sponge (Tasmanian Leatherwood honey poached Granny Smith apple, candied apple & ginger, vanilla-gingerbread ice cream) was such a treat. Because of the technique used in making the sponge cake, you get two completely opposite textures on the plate: soft and weightless clouds of black sesame sponge versus the airy but hard and crunchy black sesame masses. And finally, my favourite of the desserts, Dark Chocolate 'Terrine' (Michel Cluizel 70% dark chocolate, white chocolate crumble, matcha soy ice cream, quandongs, soy milk crisp). I'm usually not a big fan of chocolate desserts, but the rich, bitter dark chocolate was perfectly balanced by the somewhat tart quandongs and sweet ice cream and chocolate crumble, it left me wanting more.  

Besides the food, what I love about Ume is that there is nothing fancy about its setting. The dining room is simple, functional yet intimate and inviting; its menu isn't huge but has a great selection of dishes that would keep everyone at the table happy. And you know the chef has got it perfect when a simple Kaiso Salad (darling mills lettuce, pickled wakame, sesame) was so marvellous that we ended up having four servings of it.

Go for the food and let the sommelier take you on a sake journey. The whole experience willl leave you wanting to return time after time, I know I'll be back for more before long.

Ume Japanese Restaurant: 478 Bourke St  Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Ume Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon