Monday, June 27, 2011

Toku Toku - Wine and Sake Bar, Glebe

So Friends of the Fridgers, How do you like to to spend your Sundays? We have experienced some glorious sunny days in the last two weekends here in Sydney! What better way to spend Sunday in a sun filled courtyard kicking back with some midday drinks and great food? Last week we found ourselves heading to Glebe counting down to miday. Our mission was to visit Toku Toku, a relatively new Wine and Sake bar on Glebe Point road. Named after the sound that sake glasses make after it is poured into your glass ("toku toku, toku toku, toku toku") the midday countdown was by all means necessary - its only socially acceptable to drink after 12 right?
We start off (mind you, this was before we had any breakfast..) with 2 glasses of Umeshu, A sugary sweet Japanese plum wine that is super refreshing when poured over ice. Umeshu has to be one of my favourite drinks and yes I am also partial to any of the Japanese clear spirits. There is a lengthy list of Sake and Wine as one would expect from an Izakaya, and a local Australian Sake variety was also on offer. I didnt get a chance to study the drinks menu, being fixed on the food on offer of course...
Toku Toku is located on Glebe Point road next to the Primary School and if you are familiar with the area on weekends this is where the Markets are held. Like I could ever say 'no' to a beanie with a penguin head!! The staff tell us that not many people realise that there is courtyard seating out back complete with a little footbridge over little koi fish pond. The sun filled area is quite the oasis and the empty wine and sake bottles decorating the space adds a fun reminder of where we were (and what we were there for ;) )
We start with the Popcorn Prawn ($19) a dish that was very hard to ignore from the menu. We have tried and loved a similar dish previously at Sake where they used shrimp, this Toku Toku version uses huge crystal prawns. The juicy prawns are lightly battered and coated with a creamy yet tangy kim chi mayonnaise - a homage to the Korean background of the owners.  
Does it come as a surprise that I ordered something green? The Soyu Cabbage Salad ($14) was a dish I could not resist from the menu and it also came highly recommended by our helpful waitress. This braised cabbage was dressed in light white truffle vinigarette. The tangyness penetrated through all the cabbage layers and the toasted garlic and walnuts provided a little crunch. The truffle flavour was not overpowering and with half a head of cabbage to get through between two people - we definitely ate our share of greens that day.
Cabbage Cross section and some Coriander - HELLO!

Friday, June 24, 2011

District Dining, Surry Hills

The Empty Fridge night out can be classified into two nights. The after work or late night food crawl, The ridiculously boozy meal or the more civilised of the latter - Date Night. One very rainy (and by this I mean torrential) night we managed to score a late booking at District Dining, a restaurant in the "to eat" list since it opened late last year. We were down for some casual, fun, relaxed but above all else - delicious dining. As it turned out, District Dining ticked all these boxes.
Fruits of the Vine 2010 'Le Grenache' Barossa Valley $55, Sourdough Bread $4
Of course date night isn't complete without a good bottle of Vino - come on friends, you should know this comes standard with us by now. Our delightful waiter, Joe (I hope that was his name, as that was the name on the Bill) suggested we taste the 'Le Grenache' because we wanted to eat as much as we could from the menu. As always, we were looking a medium bodied red that went well with anything. Joe was spot on with this recommendation as it was more savoury and not overly fruity. This was a lovely drop and since that night we have been spotting it all over town so it seems to be quite popular! A winter favourite!
Snacktime Platter of Fried Goodness to start
Now we were faced with an assortment of dishes to order and Joe steps in again during decision time. The ethos behind District Dining is that their dishes are meant to be shared and enjoyed together. I have not been to Assiette which is Chef Warren Turnbull's 2 Hat restaurant (also in the..district) but I have been told that this is his less formal but equally tasty offering. Each dish on the menu makes my mouth water - its my kind of food - real, delicious and fun food that piques your tastebuds after ordering. District Dining is not a place where you have to google what exactly a e pied de cochon is and act like you knew that when it arrives at the table. Without being too formal, there is still a casual elegance about.
Crispy Quail Eggs served with Tarragon Mayonaise $14
Of course the word crispy before anything warrants an order and my grin widens as it arrives. I find it quite ingenious that these golden balls of goodness are kept upright in the original plastic containers that the quail eggs would have been encased in. Served with a dollop of tarragon mayonaise I generously slathered this on bite after bite. A runny yolk also provided some creamy goodness.
Beef Chimichanga with Curry Avocado $10

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pho An Restaurant, Bankstown

"Start counting" says little bro as soon as the friendly Vietnamese man takes down our order. "Once you get to 17, our order will be on the table"
"Shut yo' pHO mouth" I reply. 
Little brother and I took the Yaris out one cold afternoon for a quick food run. For the longest time has been wanting to take me to his favorite unassuming restaurant in Bankstown - Pho An. He regularly treks down there with his uni friends and though that it was his brotherly duty to get some Pho in my belly. I have heard nothing but great things about Pho An and its extremely addictive reputation, so no doubt little bro was on the right track.
 Being deathly allergic to corriander, I tend to tread with caution when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine - but this Empty Fridger likes to live dangerously. "Did you bring your anti-histamenes and your puffer?" little brother asks. "No." Being as awesome as he is, he carefully instructs our waiter to please make sure that there is no corriander added to both bowls..he even forgoes his serve of coriander just so it doesn't get mixed up in my dish! bless! In the blink of an eye, we had a plate of herbs and beansprouts and a bowl of fresh chillis arrive at our table - speedy service that surpasses any fast food outlet. Efficiency is the word for the day here!
Pho An definitely has its art mastered and HAS their expertise a locked down with the Pho - it is the only dish served. No Fried Rice, Spring Rolls, Dumpling or any of that sort to be seen here. I think our waiter actually smirked at me when  I took a while to decide what to I left this in the capable hands of little brother. This is where you go for Pho, and hot damn they make it good. Ok, I admit, my bowl of Cooked beef pho  (Medium Bowl, $12) looks a little sad without the lashings of coriander that they top these humongous bowls with. Little Bro reaches for the plate of beansprouts and herbs to to his Large bowl of Rare Beef Pho. ($12)
 Of course someone had to get all creative and start reaching for the sauces as well. Some Chilli, a bit of Hoisin and then there is nothing but silence. It was a sunny afternoon, and neither of us were sick but our bowls of Pho would be like a comforting hug if it was the opposite. The complimentary tea in little glasses also give some warmth but I ordered the Viet Iced Coffee for that mid afternoon sugar kick too.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sushi Bar Makoto - Sydney CBD. The Empty Fridge Celebrates its Blog-iversary and all things Awesome.

Neglect. Sorry my friends, I have been guilty of this. With a million and one excuses, I plan to make it up to you. The last 3 weeks have been a double tornado. For those of you who are not familiar with the term - it is the chaotic equivalent to the serenity of a double rainbow. In a nutshell I resigned from my job, started a new job, had a total career (and yes, a wardrobe) overhaul, battled a meatball addition, built Ikea furniture,  and quietly celebrated The Empty Fridge turning one. Okay, not so much chaotic but busy and emotional nevertheless. But we'll touch on that soon ;)
In this relatively short amount of time there has been so much change, and also been plenty to celebrate. New career does tend to equal several new pairs of shoes in my books but how does one celebrate this "little blog that could" turning one? And a little brother turning 19? And having an emotional goodbye to your office home and snack drawer for the last few years..? Enter my happy place. 
Makoto, my happy place, has been a constant in my life for the last 8 years. So yes - this will be an extremely biased blog post. In fairness, I won't talk about each dish..I'm going to talk about how much one humble sushi bar in the World Tower complex has been present in almost every aspect of my adult life. I'm not even going to say it is the "best" sushi in Sydney even though I'm yet to find better. This is my Makoto story.
The Sushi Train / Miso Soup $2.50
In life, I consider this place to be my rock. If this was MySpace, Makoto would be number one in my top eight. If this was Facebook, you'd see "Gianna is in a relationship with Makoto". Now my life is not as dramatic as your average Marissa Cooper, Blair Waldorf or Lauren Conrad (although I do hope that it could be as stylish). Through many stages of my little life - Makoto sets the backdrop.
Handrolls! From $3.60
 During High School my free periods and half days would mean a train ride to the CBD, a bar seat by the conveyor belt for one and my extension history textbooks on the ground. I distinctly remember the manager at the time "Jun-Ichi" teasing me that he would contact the school and tell them I was a truant.
Fresh Tuna Sashimi - The Masuya Group buy daily at the Sydney Fish Markets
My fondest memories were that of the floor staff looking baffled when I'd ask for 2 Teriyaki Chicken hand rolls instead of the usual 4 - how I miss that teenage metabolism. The last minute panic on eve of my HSC exams I'd walk over after cramming at the state library. It was my happy place.
Sushi Selction on the Conveyor Belt
 I think I celebrated nearly every birthday since turning 18 at Makoto. If we visit fancy restaurant for dinner, then I would be there for lunch, or have to sneak a meal in the day after.My equally addicted little brother has also done the same.
My Family and the Sashimi Selection
 I guess when you are working weekend shifts at Target, Makoto was considered a proper and fancy restaurant. From a young age I had love Japanese food and through dining here I was able to really appreciate quality sushi. I remember cringing at the thought of sushi from the train station take away shop that my school mates had after school. Was this the makings of a sushi snob?
Ebi Fry with Egg and Mayo salad topping $3.60
 My high School Boyfriend - (Demos skip through this section please) Although he was king of the deadshits and poured battery acid (twice) on my car and stalked me, he did appreciate my love for Makoto and for every single "date" we had - we ate here. Me and the crazy deadshit.
Spicy Tuna Roll - with cucumber, avocado, capsicum and sesame seeds $3.60
I remember one time, the deadshit and I had a fight at the restaurant - he walked out of the restaurant leaving me to hold back tears. I stayed in my spot because the teriyaki chicken hand rolls had not arrived yet.
The freshest of fresh prawns $5.60
After High School, I was accepted into UTS but to my dismay I was based at the Kurring-gai Campus at Lindfield. Proximity to Makoto was an issue for me and thankfully I had classes at the city tower one day a week. It was at this stage that they opened the branch at Chatswood which was 10 minutes away from Lindfield. The sushi gods answered my prayers. "Jun-Ichi" had moved to this branch and called me a traitor!
The Sashimi Platter
 Of course the deadshit boyfriend did not last long and I think it was second year where I took a Uni boyfriend here (Demos, sorry, still not you..scroll along) This lovely boy was at that stage in his life where sushi was new and all he ever was exposed to was traditional Italian food. "I've never had Japanese food before"  Lucky for me we both went to UTS so it was a midday lunch break destination.
Pork Katsu rolle with Avocado and Cucumber $3.60
 The "I've got an assignment due tomorrow and I'll be at the library" line more often than not turned into "I'm at Makoto". It was my haven from all the now seemingly unimportant stresses of uni life and paved the way for the expert procrastination that only exists in the world of a uni student.
A thick slice of Premium tuna belly $4.60
One memorable Makoto visit involved a run in with the deadshit ex and the Uni boyfriend. Ohhh that little altercation was one for an episode of "The Hills".  From that day I knew - I have to specify that I get custody. We break up, Makoto is mine and if you go - may you choke on your tuna. Only kidding. I'm not vindictive but consider this a warning Demos.
Karage Chicken $5.80 and Special Salmon Roll $6.60
 Working as a nurse was beyond insane. The hours, the workload, the emotional baggage and of course the distance between the hospitals and Makoto really took it's toll on me. It made me burn that Uni boyfriend scored a job a block away. I'd trek it into the CBD after a strenuous morning shift to meet him for lunch but in reality - Makoto just was able to make everything better.
Tempura Prawn Hand roll $3.60 and Unagi (eel) Hand roll $5.60
Our bad romance came to an inevitable end and we parted ways. I was not quick to realise that emotional eating at Makoto had become a coping mechanism. Some girls reach for the ice cream, the chocolate, the vodka..I dealt with my breakup with a stack of sushi plates of course. The clear spirits had to be saved for later..
Soft Shell Crab with Roll hand roll $5.60 (in Chatswood this comes with an egg omlette)
 With bad romances, comes love at first fight. Yes Demos - this is where you come in. Yes, we bonded over double espresso dates, but for the longest time at the start - we hardly dined out. Who would have thought that now dining out is what we do best?


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