The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 24 February 2006

Sydney Dine-outs - Jap, M'sian, Turk

Fujiya Japanese Restaurant, Haymarket

On the eve of Chinese New Year, my sister took us to Fujiya Japanese Restaurant on George Street nearby her apartment in Haymarket. We decided that going for a non-Chinese restaurant would ensure that it wouldn't be packed for this festive occasion. I thought the menu was reasonably priced - neither cheap like Taka nor pricey like Tsunami. There were lots to choose from, ranging from the usual sushi, sashimi, rice and udon to the more un-normal stuff like soft-shelled crabs and crumbed oysters.

Octopus balls (takoyaki) are quite popular in Sydney and Melbourne - there are stalls in shopping malls and in the open market areas selling just this stuff. We ordered takoyaki and soft-shelled crab as entree to share between the three of us.


Soft-shelled crab:

For mains, Rob ordered the katsudon set and I went for the sushi udon set.


Sushi udon:

From memory, the total of our meals came to around $54 for the three of us. The restaurant's interior was nice and spacious with wooden floors and furnitures. There are bigger tables on the perimeter of the floor next to the windows (the restaurant is on the first floor) and smaller tables with partitions for more intimate setting towards the middle of the restaurant. Japanese waitresses are always polite, so you can be assured of a good service - just be prepared for the language barrier. Fujiya's worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.

Makoto Sushi Bar, Chatswood

One of my friends live in the suburbs near Chatswood, which is about a 1/2hr train ride north from Central Station. Oh man, catching the train at Central Station is quite an experience but that's another story altogether. Anyway she suggested this Japanese place called Makoto which has a sushi train which she says is the best she's had. She reckons that the sushi trains we have in Perth (like Jaws) don't even come close to comparing the stuff you can get here.

You can't make a booking at this place. It works on a similar principle as many dimsum/yumcha places do - you write your name down on the sheet of paper and the number of people, and your number is called when there are seats available for you. She suggests we meet at 8pm for dinner, the reason for which is that there's usually a wait for a seat and she was hoping that the line wouldn't be as long if we had a late-ish dinner. And boy, did we wait - we waited 40minutes for our seats! We were absolutely starving by the time we sat down (heh, and probably contributes to why we think the food tastes so good too). There's a policy that you get a free sushi plate if you wait for more than 30minutes for a seat.

The food was fresh and very nice - although I think if we came in closer to dinner time, we would have more variety to choose from. I think our favourite was this grilled fish sushi where the fish was 'grilled' using a blow torch - Rob said it tasted like Hungry Jack's trademarked flame-grilled meats. Yummy. Nihon no tabemono ga totemo sukidesu (I hope that makes sense). We had maybe 16 plates between Rob and myself, and I think that came to about $45. I can understand why this is a very popular place.

Chinta Ria Restaurant, Darling Harbour

We wanted to take Lynn out to a nice dinner as a thank you for showing us around and letting us stay at her place. She highly recommended a Malaysian restaurant called Chinta Ria at Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour. She loves the coconut rice and the Hot and Sour soup (aka Szechuan soup).

Chinta Ria is definitely marketted to the more well-off. Whilst the food taste authentic enough, it's definitely targetted at the non-Malaysian people because us Malaysians know that good Malaysian food don't cost that much! But it's a nice place for a treat :).

There's a huge buddha statue to greet you when you step in the doorway. The waiters are from Malaysia or Singapore which contributes to the authenticity of the food I suppose. Service is faultless, and it's a nicely decorated restaurant. If you're lucky enough, you can choose to have a table outside with a view of the river or enjoy the atmosphere and music inside the restaurant.

After much musing over the menu, we decided to have the following (descriptions taken from their menu available online:

Ella's Wrap ($9) - prawns stuffed with minced prawns, herbs and vegetables sealed in a fine pastry and snap fried. I only had a tiny taste due to my phobia of greasy foods causing my stomach problems. It was nice and not at all greasy like I expected it to be. Nice and crispy.

Hot 'n' Sour soup ($8) - tofu, shredded black fungus, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and preserved cabbage in a spicy egg-blend soup. This soup was served in a large bowl, so it was worth the $8. I like Szechuan soups and Chinta Ria did this soup well so this gets my thumbs up.

Sambal Fish ($24) - Rockling fillets in a light chilli paste with onion and tomato. Not sambal as we know it - i.e. not very spicy at all. Real sambal fish (especially my mum's) has a real bite to it. This one was even almost sweet. I guess if this place wishes to attract mainly non-Asian diners, it can't serve super spicy foods.

Beef Rendang ($20.80) - beef, curry paste and coconut milk. Lynn and I agree that this is not beef rendang. Beef rendang is quite a dry curry and the meat is cooked until it is tender and almost in shreds. The beef rendang at Chinta Ria had a lot more liquid to it. It's just not the same as the traditional rendang, but it was still nice.

Coconut rice ($3pp). Much like the rice served with nasi lemak. This is served per head, not per bowl much to Rob's delight. Rob loves nasi lemak :)

All up we paid around $72 for the three of us, which is reasonable but I know we can get a lot of these food for much cheaper elsewhere.

Efes Turkish Pizzas & Kebabs, Newtown

One of Rob's friends live in Newtown, and took us around King Street. We were in search of a nice place to eat, but most of the places she recommended were not open for lunch. There were many other restaurants to choose from - Thai, Vietnamese, cafe-style food, kebabs and Japanese just to name a few. So after much deliberation over what to have we settled on what was in front of us (mostly because we were already starving!), which happened to be Efes (although, if I had my way, we'd probably end up in another Japanese restaurant ;P). Quite a cozy little cafe, mainly catering for take-aways I think. Efes has a selection of pides (turkish pizzas) and kebabs to choose from. And apparently Apple Tea is a Turkish specialty too - I certainly didn't know that. Obviously we had to try it. It was so sweet! I guess I didn't expect the sweetness to hit me (I was expecting some sort of herbal tea). To give an idea of the taste, I think it would taste quite similar to clarified apple juice if you heat up the juice.

We ordered one chicken kebab with the lot ($7) and one vegetarian pide made with potatoes and egg ($10) to share between the three of us. The kebab tastes pretty much like most kebabs we've had, but we loved the pide. The pide was served folded, similar to the calzone pizzas you find in Italian diners.

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