29 April 2013

RivaReno: Gelato, Surry Hills, Sydney (22 Feb 2013)

280/282 Crown Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

From Italy with love

‘RivaReno brand was created by two Italian gelato-makers, a former BBC journalist, an Italian lawyer, and a former Italian car executive. The partners formulated the idea, in the city of Bologna, of producing a gelato with uncompromising quality. The name RivaReno is taken from a neighbourhood in Bologna that bears the same name.’

Sydney is lucky to have so many yummy gelato places around and RivaReno has joined the ranks for those in need of a good gelato fix. Being a very visual person the first thing I noticed when entering the clean lined shop was no welcoming display of gelato to tempt you. Thus careful studying of the menu board was required to decide what to have. Keen to try a few I went for the 3 flavours ($7.90) option in a cup which was quite small but thankfully the quality of flavours picked were very good. The speciality flavours all sounded great but I tried New York New York with organic Canadian maple syrup and caramelised pecans. From the classics menu I went for the Cocco with Sri Lankan coconut milk with noticeable shavings of coconut and from the fruit sorbet section the Limone was a stand out with lemon juice from Sicily and the peel of Calabrian lemons. Good flavour and smoothness that hits the mark for a refreshing winner. Looking forward to revisiting to try more of the flavours and hopefully find a few more favourites along the way.

PROS: No preservatives, artifical colour or flavourings; Interesting flavours, Nice texture and taste, Clean decor albeit a bit clinical
CONS: Gelato is not on display so you'll have to rely on the menu to decide what to get, Good gelato doesn't come cheap
MUST TRY: Limone, Revisiting to try other flavours
VERDICT: Great spot for a quality gelato fix with interesting flavours to choose
New York New York, Limone, Cocco ($7.90 3 flavours)

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26 April 2013

Umi Sushi & Udon: Japanese, Darling Quarter, Sydney (22 Nov, 14 Dec 2012)

Shop TR10, Darling Quarter, 1 Harbour Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Casual Japanese dining

This review combines two visits to Umi Sushi & Udon. The first was on my own for lunch while the second was as an invited guest by Deirdre O'Loghlin from O'Loghlin Communications with owner Jessie Xiao. During the two visits I discovered some favourite dishes I'd recommend and a few that could perhaps be improved from my point of view. It seems to have proved itself as a popular addition to the Darling Quarter precinct. On my first visit I received friendly and efficient service from a trainee named Peter who also did a good job at making sure my table water was topped up. Service overall seemed friendly and quite efficient cleaning and preparing tables promptly. Upon my second invited visit the staff didn't seem to have my booking on arrival which made it a bit awkward waiting for a table to be available which was unfortunate as an invited guest of all things. Staff were friendly and quite efficient at bringing the dishes although there were some unfortunate lapses of clearing our empty dishes from the table which the owner needed to remind them about.

First visit:
Chef Special Sashimi Tasting Plate ($9.80, 3 kinds) was fresh and quite thick which thankfully didn't have any sinew. Natural Oyster ($11, 3 pieces) with Orange Soy and Basil Ponzu dressing were large St Helens pacifics although I don't think they were shucked to order and one of them was unfortunately a bit mushed up and badly presented under a wedge of lemon. Better care required. Snow pea sprouts don't work on an oyster for me which makes it awkward to eat when trying to slurp down an oyster. The Soft Shell Crab Salad ($11.80) looked good. Would have loved a bit more soft shell crab for the amount of salad. Crab was cooked with a nice crisp batter but salad needed more salad dressing which I asked for. Not sure about the corn kernels which aren't the easiest to eat with chopsticks but provided a nice sweet pop to the palate. I enjoyed the Home Made Pork Gyoza ($6.80, 5 pieces) which seemed reasonably priced and actually went well with the extra salad dressing I received which had a nice chilli kick. If you don't mind roe on your scallops then the Flame Grilled Cheese Scallop ($12.80, 3 pieces) will surely please. Scallops were big and cheese fans will love the generous smothering of cheese on top lifted with a squeeze of lemon. 

Second visit:
I'm not much of a sake drinker but was happy to be guided by the owner Jessie in trying Go-Shu Blue Super Premium Sake ($14 small bottle) and Bishonen Junmai Ginjo ($10 small bottle). Both enjoyable to drink but I enjoyed the refreshing Choya Umeshu ($5.50 glass) even more although a premium price for a small glass. For an easy snack with your favourite drink the Lotus Root Chips ($5.80) and Crispy Salmon Skin ($5.80) will serve you well with their crispiness and addictive flavour and the Garlic Soy Edamame ($5.80) are more interesting than your average plain salted variety. Large sized Tempura Oyster ($20.80, 6 pieces) had not shortage of batter although if it was thinner you'd be able to appreciate the oyster better. Spider Roll ($14.80) was well presentation with a nice crispy soft shell crab inside. For a suitable healthy lunch dish the Salmon & Avocado Salad with sesame dressing ($10.80) ticks the box with a generous amount of salmon and fresh ingredients for a reasonable price. 

For those who like things fried the Prawn tempura ($12.80) was done quite well and the Karaage chicken ($7.80) was tender with a crisp and flavoursome coating although wished the pieces were a bit smaller for easier eating with chopsticks. Snow pea sprouts made their appearance again on the Wagyu Beef Tataki ($16.80) and King fish carpaccio ($9.80) which seemed a bit at odds and I would have preferred a more simpler presentation of both with just a nice dressing on top. The fancied up plating just didn't look natural to me. Desserts made a strong finish. I liked the Home made waffle with black sesame ice cream & strawberry ($10.80) and the Daifuku ($4.50 each) with nice flavours and technique although seemed pricey for single piece. The well presented Mango & Coconut Sago Pudding ($7.80) was an enjoyable dessert and easy to eat I'd happily order again.

PROS: Extensive menu options, Seems reasonably priced, Generally quite efficient service
CONS: Snow pea sprouts seem to appear in too many dishes as a garnish for my liking, I found sitting at the sushi train in a tall chair uncomfortable to rest my feet
MUST TRY: Choya Umeshu, Lotus Root Chips, Salmon & Avocado Salad, Daifuku, Returning to try the soups
VERDICT: Plenty of menu choices with reasonably priced salads that could become a regular lunch option
Visit 1: 22 Nov 2012
Chef Special Sashimi Tasting Plate ($9.80 3 kinds)
Natural Oyster ($11, 3 pieces)
Snow pea sprouts seems wrong on an oyster and makes it hard to eat
Maybe a bit too heavy on the topping for any oyster in my books
Oyster poorly presented — better care required

Soft Shell Crab Salad ($11.80) — crab cooked with nice crisp but salad required more dressing
Extra salad dressing was very nice
Home Made Pork Gyoza ($6.80, 5 pieces) — quite tasty and juicy with nice pastry
Flame Grilled Cheese Scallop ($12.80, 3 pieces) — decent size and still has roe if you like that taste

Visit 2: 14 Dec 2012
Choya Umeshu ($5.50 glass) — refreshing flavour although seems pricey for a small glass
Garlic Soy Edamame ($5.80) — nice interesting flavour
Mixed Oysters - Tempura Oyster ($20.80, 6 pieces) — very large although quite a bit of batter making it heavy and rich
Spider Roll - Soft shell crab, avocado & cucumber wrapped with flying fish roe ($14.80) — nice presentation with crispy soft shell crab
Natural Oyster ($11, 3 pieces) — I think finer pieces of onion would be better
Not a fan of the snow pea sprouts on an oyster

Crispy Salmon Skin ($5.80) — very crispy, goes well with a drink, nice tasty snack
Lotus Root Chips ($5.80) — crispy, addictive flavour, done very well, generous serve, good bar snack with drink
Salmon & Avocado Salad with sesame dressing ($10.80) — generous amount of salmon, decent amount of dressing, fresh ingredients
Wagyu Beef Tataki ($16.80) — not a fan of the overcomplicated presentation, rather have displayed flat with more dressing over meat
King fish carpaccio ($9.80) — not a fan of the overcomplicated presentation, prefer all flat with dressing and flavour drizzled over the top, fresh tasting though
Grilled Egg Plant with miso sauce ($7.80) — quite tasty and soft and juicy, would have preferred if supplied sliced up for easier eating
Prawn tempura ($12.80) decent crisp coating, fairly decent size but would prefer more prawn meat to batter
Flame Grilled Cheese Scallop ($12.80, 3 pieces) — large scallops, roe kept on might not suit everyone, easily overcooked
Go-Shu Blue Super Premium Sake ($14 small bottle) — herbal flavours, easy enough to drink
Bishonen Junmai Ginjo ($10 small bottle) — easy drinking, affordable, interesting bottle with ice
Tempura squid ($7.80) — tender, crisp batter but quite heavy and filling and maybe too much batter so hard to taste the squid
Home made pork gyoza ($6.80, 5 pieces) — tasty and nice pastry
Agedashi tofu ($6.80) — soft texture with slightly crisp outer shell, done quite well, wanted more flavour from dressing though
Karaage chicken ($7.80) — decent portion, crisp and flavoursome coating, tender, maybe a bit on the fatty side, smaller pieces would be easier to eat with chopsticks
Home made waffle with black sesame ice cream & strawberry ($10.80) — decent size, nice ice cream flavour 
Daifuku ($4.50 each) — pricey for single piece but flavours worked well together, strawberry helps add freshness, shell nice and thin

Tea — floral and nice
Mango & Coconut Sago Pudding ($7.80) — nice enjoyable dessert, nice presentation, easy to eat

Something for the kids
Clean toilet with baby change table gets a tick
I found the seats at the sushi train uncomfortable to sit at because I could rest my feet properly although my big shoes didn't help

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