Monday, October 20, 2014

Gyuzou yakiniku: A barbeque in any language

It seems a barbeque in any language is a good reason to get together with people and have a good time eating meat around a heat source. Opened just last week, Gyuzou is the newest yakiniku Japanese barbeque restaurant to hit town in that somewhat stranded area north of Chinatown but not quite CBD.

Taking over the two-storey shop that was once an ice creamery, accessed from Harbour Street rather than Sussex Street, Gyuzou offers Japanese style barbeque or yakiniku, which literally translates to "grilled meat".

Yakiniku Japanese barbeque and sauces at Gyuzou, Sussex Street, Haymarket
While it looks most similar to what we probably know in Sydney as Korean barbeque, yakiniku differs in that the raw meat for cooking on the barbeque is not marinated. Instead, simply seasoned, it's cooked and then eaten with dipping sauces, of which Gyuzou offers three as standard: chilli, salt and a sweet soy yakiniku sauce.

Gyuzou specialises in wagyu beef and even has an opening month special of half-price wagyu yakiniku dishes for the whole month of October 2014.

Upstairs dining area
The fitout is more refined Japanese than the usual cheap and cheerful Korean barbeque venues, with lots of dark wood offset by gorgeous Japanese fabrics.

Part of the Yes Food group of Japanese restaurants (which also owns Wagaya and many others), Gyuzo also uses the iPad ordering system made infamous at Wagaya many years ago. As such, it's pretty easy to go nuts on the menu, especially if you're ordering as a group as we were.

Cinderella cocktail
With a range of large range of 'cocktails' on the menu, we couldn't go past the sweet lychee liqueur based Cinderella with a literal base of blue curaçao and a prettily contrasting red grapefruit and mint garnishes.

Lime chuhai
The shochu-based highball with fresh lime was more my pick, with a refreshing sweetness that was ideal in front of the barbeque.

It's always a good idea to order some starters that are ready-to-eat in these self barbeque situations. At Gyuzou, the menu runs from sushi and sashimi to noodles and soups and a large range of side dishes/appetisers, in addition to the yakiniku items.

We started on okonomiyaki savoury pancake which tasted freshly made beneath its usual condiments of okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi bonito flakes but not overly exciting.

We also grabbed a side of takoyaki octopus balls which were pretty decent deep-fried versions, slathered in the same condiments.

The small bowl of the Korean yukke raw beef salad even looked like wagyu beef, with the thin strips of raw beef marbled with fat.

Served with julienned cucumber and a raw egg yolk all stirred through at the table, the yukke made for a nice precursor to lots more wagyu.

Menu excerpt showing cow/beef parts
(image courtesy of SD Marketing)
I always like seeing a meat map as it reminds me of muscle structures and why certain cuts are the way they are. Gyuzou's printed menu is most helpful on the cow front and also shows a marbling level for each cut on offer.

Wagyu chuck tail flap
I like a moderate level of fat marbling so the wagyu chuck tail flap was my pick. From the shoulder region (thanks, cow map), it was tender and juicy - even without one of the dipping sauces.

Wagyu oyster blade
The yakiniku sauce was the easy, cover-all sauce while the chilli was relatively mild and the salt sauce better with non-beef items, I thought.

Wagyu short rib
For the full-on, fatty wagyu experience though, it has to be the short rib which has some pretty impressive marbling. I managed to cook out a fair bit of the fat on the barbeque but it was still a buttery mouthful that almost just melted on the bite.

Vegetables for cheese fondue
For a vegetable fix, definitely go the option that comes with a 'cheese fondue' for dipping. Put the metal cheese tray on the grill and separately cook the vegetables, then dip into the almost liquid cheese. It's like the cheese of packaged mac'n'cheese and it's so very good, with almost anything off the barbeque.

Wagyu ox tongue
Wagyu ox tongue is becoming one of my favourite cuts of offal and when it's as tender (with a slight bounce) as the dish at Gyuzou, it's as glorious as some of the more expensive cuts.

Yakiniku barbeque
Most of the dishes arrived with a garnish of mushroom but we added a side order of the buttons, pearls and king browns too, given the ease of getting carried away with fatty, juicy meat.

Wagyu rib finger
Speaking of fatty meat, the wagyu rib finger topped the list. Coming from the part right on the rib, they were cubes of almost pure fat with some meat marbling, and certainly not for the dieters.

Pork cheek
Neither was the pork cheek which rendered down nicely on the barbeque, leaving just a touch of meat with the caramelised porky fat.

With scampi on the menu it was a no brainer but when it arrived (three serves pictured), it was more a question of: to cook or not to cook. The beautiful specimens looked sashimi-friendly but we compromised with a short stay on the barbeque for that rare-cooked sweet and creamy scampi flesh.

Raw scallops for the barbeque arrived rather theatrically huddled in a shell, like the greatest scallop ever found with six pieces of the sweet, sweet mollusc. I found these particularly nice lightly grilled and dipped into the salt sauce.

Pork sausage
I can't go past a good pork sausage and the chunky filled, smoked ones here were pretty decent and just needed a touch of mustard for that authentic izakaya feed.

Corn butter
While I've had mushrooms and garlic cloves cooked in butter over the grill, corn kernels were a new one. Forever forgetting that stuff cooked in, basically, boiling butter are equally boiling hot, these sweet little kernels were dangerously tasty.

Mountain chain
I've left the most interesting (read: strange) and unique dish till last. The dramatically named 'mountain chain' is a muscle attached to the cow's rumen and forms a type of tripe, quite literally a few steps before the honeycomb tripe that's much more common in various cuisines.

With a dark 'skin' like outer and various tube-like pieces, the mountain chain is not for the faint of heart, nor the hard of chewing, as we found out. Flavour-wise, there's not much going on; hence the marinade probably, but the texture is that of the chewiest muscle you can imagine, then with a chewy skin layer on top. One for the thrill-seekers, I think, and not one I'll be having again.

Seafood barbeque action
On the cooking front Gyuzo has invested into some pretty high-tech ventilation that's built right into the barbeque unit. No visible ventilation hoods hanging from the ceiling here, but just the small holes in the ring of the barbeque, sucking in smoke before it has time to infiltrate all your clothes and hair.

I was noticeably less smoky-smelling than when I normally leave Korean barbeques, but also quite possibly due to the fact that the meat wasn't marinated and thus did not burn its marinade on the grill as is common in Korean barbeque, emitting plumes of smoke usually.

Green tea parfait (front) and berry parfait (back)
After all the grilled protein, some might jump at the opportunity for sweets, which are fairly basic at Gyuzou. Most elaborate are probably the parfaits which feature ice cream, fresh cream, conflakes (which is such an adorably Japanese touch) and a topping like the green tea syrup or berry syrup, with fruit and wafer garnishes.

Full as a boot with Gyuzou's yakiniku offerings, particularly its so-tender wagyu cuts, dinner at Gyuzou certainly confirmed that a good time will be had at a barbeque - and that's a good time in any language.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Gyuzou as a guest, with thanks to SD Marketing.

Gyuzo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 16, 2014

OzHarvest celebrates 10 years with Table of 10 dinners

OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinners, weeknights from 13-24 October 2014 at
OzHarvest HQ, Maddox Street, Alexandria
A decade of somethingis a serious achievement these days – 10 year anniversaries; 10 years in the workforce; 10 years since university. Food rescue organisation OzHarvest this year celebrates its 10 year milestone and it's certainly been an incredible journey for the once-fledgling charity and its effervescent, often yellow-clad founder Ronni Kahn.

OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn
Since 2004 OzHarvest has delivered 30 million meals to people in need across Australia and saved 9 million kilos of surplus food from going to the landfill.

OzHarvest facts and figures at the mobile kitchen
In addition to rescuing surplus food and providing meals to charities with people in need, OzHarvest has expanded into education and training.

Its NEST nutrition education sustenance training works with people at the food drop-off points while the new Nourish education, training and mentorship program seeks to provide a pathway to food and hospitality industry employment for disadvantaged youth.

Table for 10 table settings
OzHarvest is celebrating its 10th birthday and Good Food Month with a series of 10 dinners at the new OzHarvest HQ in Alexandria – a large, multi-purpose warehouse space donated by Goodman as a birthday gift – where they've only recently moved in.

The Table for 10 dinners – on every weeknight from 13-24 October 2014 and supported by Virgin Mobile and Vittoria Coffee – will raise funds whilst offering a unique dining experience that is, as Ronni puts it, made with love and good for the soul.

Matched wines by Handpicked Wines
Starring a secret chef every night – Café Paci's Hanz Gueco did the Monday night while Ester's Mat Lindsay, Bar H's Hamish Ingham and 10 William Street's Daniel Pepperell are yet to go – diners also get a sneak peek into OzHarvest HQ, where food rescue happens daily – often by the pallet – and its emerging kitchen and training space and thriving on-site garden.

Of course, there's also a beautifully soulful meal in a gorgeous setting with matching wines by Handpicked Wines which has vineyards and grower partnerships all across Australia.

Long table for OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinners
For the second of the 10 dinners on Tuesday evening, OzHarvest's own Chef for a Cause Travis Harvey was at the helm in the warehouse's mobile kitchen, with students from the Nourish program and a whole lot of rescued ingredients and produce harvested freshly from their own kitchen garden.

That Travis and the team could transform what would have otherwise would have become landfill into what was one of the best meals I've had all year was an unbelievably amazing feat – you'd only be so lucky to get him for one of the dinners next week (booking details at end of post).

Kale and other vegetables growing in the onsite OzHarvest garden
Our night started with a quick garden tour before escaping the rain inside HQ with a dry Handpicked Eden Valley riesling, enjoying fellow company and the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. This later turned into outright raging downpours accompanied by a light show, but several wines in by that time we weren't too worried.

Labneh with flat bread
We nibbled on labneh strained yoghurt and flat bread to start – a combination I could just eat forever. The labneh was made from rescued yoghurt and garden herbs while the flat bread was made from rescued flour.

Spring pea falafel with preserved lime hummus and almond dukka
Seated at gorgeous, artsy timber tables (rentals donated by Timbermill) we shared two entrées that were seriously impressive, paired with the similarly outstanding Handpicked Margaret River chardonnay that was full bodied and fruity, which I never would have thought I could say about a chardy.

The crisp-surfaced falafel – made with rescued chick peas and spring green peas from the kitchen garden – sat contentedly in a generous and nutty pool of hummus. Packed tightly and green within, I'd say the pea falafels were an improvement on the traditional pea-free version and so good that seconds were definitely justified.

Salmon dolma
Alongside the falafels were the slightly odd-looking salmon dolma featuring fillets donated to OzHarvest wrapped in vine leaves, battered and fried. Served on a salad of spinach, radish and pomegranate, the delicately-cooked salmon was a complete revelation within the soft, subtle leaf – enhanced stunningly by the sweet pomegranate seeds.

In true OzHarvest style, the generous shared servings meant that any leftovers were shared amongst the lovely volunteers who were there on their own time to wait on tables and share the OzHarvest story.

8-hour lamb shoulder with tomato confit
I could smell the main course coming a mile away and may just have swooned at the sight of a huge shared dish of slow-roasted lamb shoulder, pulled from the bone and served with the most sensational tomato confit. It was gold: soft and mushy skinless tomatoes cooked down to a chunky almost-sauce, so rich and full flavoured that it felt completely groan-worthy luxurious.

The tender lamb, crisp and burnished deep brown on the outside, almost played second fiddle to the tomato but together, they were utterly comforting and truly joyous.

Pistachio pilaf
Not to be outdone, the sides were perfect accompaniments to the bounteous lamb. The pistachio studded pilaf rice was lovely on its own but made for a delicious base to soak up the tomato with the roasted lamb.

Artichoke, parsley and mint salad
Meanwhile, the deceptively simple salad of sprightly parsley and mint leaves from the kitchen garden with shaved raw artichoke, dressed with lemon and oil, was a fresh, light and healthy reprieve that was simply superb.

Hanpicked Central Otago pinot noir from a custom-made decanter
Mains were matched with Handpicked's pinot noir from Central Otago, New Zealand. I don't know if it was because it was served in a stunning earthenware decanter, but the fruity red had an earthiness to it that matched the lamb and sides exceptionally well.

Cardamom panna cotta, poached rhubarb and black sesame caramel
It was almost as if there couldn't have been any more goodness to have but there was dessert to come, updated from the printed menu to account for some rhubarb that had been harvested that morning from the on-site garden.

The cardamom scented panna cotta was like a beautiful thick cream rather than a jelly, with just the right amount of spicing. The rhubarb, softly and sweetly poached to a shape-holding mush, was joined by small strawberry segments also from the garden and stunning shards of deep gold toffee shards, filled with the prettiness and nuttiness of toasted black sesame seeds.

Handpicked Italian moscato with dessert
Matched with Handpicked’s Italian moscato d'asti, it was a sparklingly sweet finish to the meal and night. While the weather outside was frightful, OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinner by chef Travis Harvey was truly delightful, nourishing the body and soul, and obviously cooked with lots of love.

The sharing of joy and celebration was palpable on the night and I basically felt like I'd walked into OzHarvest's home and received a giant, warm embrace on the other end – one of food and booze, but also of passion, care and trying to make our world a better place. Congratulations to OzHarvest on the 10 year milestone and cheers to many more years of your great, valuable work.

See more photos on my Facebook page and information on OzHarvest and the Table for 10 dinners. You can also find OzHarvest at the Good Fortune Cart (near the lucky cat) at the Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets at Hyde Park, 10-26 October 2014.

OzHarvest’s #mealforameal campaign is still going, where for each and every food picture posted on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #mealforameal, OzHarvest can deliver one real meal to someone in need, thanks to Virgin Mobile.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of OzHarvest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Tassie Ethos of eating and drinking

Posted by Jan

We were just a little bit tired when we checked into our hotel in Hobart but I couldn't quite contain my excitement for our dinner booking. A short walk away from the hotel we spotted a little signboard signalling our destination - Ethos Eat Drink.

Hidden down a little laneway, Ethos Eat Drink, Elizabeth Street, Hobart
We wandered down the brick-tunnelled corridor and were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful, genuinely rustic venue amid a vegetable garden. Showing some serious Tasmanian heritage, the Ethos dining space was constructed in the 1820s and its surrounds all date back way beyond the 'rustic chic' trend.

Rich with Hobart history, the restaurant retains strong links to its past with story-filled bits and pieces all around the venue, while it is very strongly linked to the Hobart of today with its focus on locally-grown produce.

Homegrown herbs and vegetables
Ethos offers set menus for dinner sittings, made up of whatever is in season and arrives in small batches at the restaurant on the day.

I opted for the eight course as opposed to the six once I learnt that the extra dishes were going to be charcuterie and cheese. I am, after all, a meat and cheese type of girl.

Jacob's Ladder Amber Ale and gin with house tonic water
We skipped the matching wines in favour of our usual: for him, a local beer in Jacob's Ladder Amber Ale from Van Dieman Brewing and a gin and tonic for me. A novel surprise was that Ethos make their own tonic water, bringing that Tassie touch to a simple G&T.

Jerusalem artichoke chips and crème fraîche
As an appetiser we first received Jerusalem artichoke chips stuck into a blob of crème fraîche. The curled, skin-on chips were thinly sliced and great with a light crunch.

Jerusalem artichokes are typically winter vegetables that I don't often cook as they are such small knobbly creatures and require patience, but I'm glad to have learnt a simple and delicious new way of cooking them.

Fermented apple, apple and miso puree
The next dish of fermented and fresh apple with miso purée and both herbs and vegetables from Ethos' own garden was a mouthful of sweetness, saltiness, crunch and softness.

As we were to discover, each dish at Ethos was made using just a few ingredients, together on a plate in a way that still allowed each flavour to shine.

Confit shallot, leek custard and fermented strawberry
The rather curious dish of leek custard with confit shallots and fermented strawberry was almost too pretty to eat.

I'm usually wary of shallots as I find they can overpower flavours but the whole dish was delicate and yet another example of multiple flavours and textures all in one mouthful.

House made charcuterie
When the shared charcuterie board arrived I was in food heaven, and missed most of the waiter's descriptions.

I know that the terrine was moist and beautifully seasoned and that the rilettes were just the right texture of tender, but it was the cured meat that stole the show. I couldn't quite figure out what cut of porky goodness it was but the excellent proportion of fat to meat made each bite just right.

Dover mussels, dry aged sausage, pickled red cabbage and baby carrots
Ethos' version of a surf and turf was probably my favourite shared dish of the night. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness of pairing simple vegetables of potatoes, carrots and tangy pickled red cabbage with smoky mussels and a salty, spiced sausage.

The flavours of each ingredient could either stand by itself or be eaten together in a wondrous land and sea combination.

Ox tongue, beetroot puree, rapini, pickled onions and cauliflower
While for some there's something about tongue that's just a bit like chewing a tongue, I adored the ox tongue dish and probably ate more than my fair share.

This was my first experience eating rapini raw, which has a slightly bitter taste as with most green leaf vegetables.

Slow cooked pork, broth, kale, spring onion, leek and pickled kohlrabi
Most other diners had started earlier than us so I'd seen bowls of the slow cooked pork arrive at their tables and smelt its earthy scent. This dish could have been my favourite but I found the pork just a bit dry. I did however slurp up all my broth and eat all my vegies.

The problem with multi-course menus is that I tend to overeat on the earlier dishes so by the time the mains/proteins arrive, I'm just too full to eat them. I also blame the bread.

Cheese course
More bread showed up as an accompaniment to the soft goat's cheese, served with a sweet fruit paste and preserved cherries to mellow the saltiness of the creamy, white cheese.

Fresh fig, fig puree, sorrel sorbet, chocolate shortbread, rhubarb syrup and buckwheat
No one was surprised that I barely ate the dessert of figs with sorrel sorbet, but I wasn't too sure about the chocolate shortbread which was just a bit too hard. The sorrel sorbet was a pleasant palate cleanser and tasted as green as it looked.

Bottle chandelier in the dining room
We were pretty much the last diners in the place when we finished but not once did we feel rushed. I did feel bad though and forgot to take a picture of the Tasmania's oldest plumbed toilet (circa 1900, viewed through a glass wall) on our way out.

I like and admire that Ethos uses traditional methods of fermenting, pickling and curing in the food they serve. Ethos is a great representation of the movement by chefs to serve seasonal local produce in a simple, less fussy way - and in a completely, through and through Tassie ethos.

Ethos Eat Drink on Urbanspoon


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