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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sokyo at The Star sushi omakase, Pyrmont

Sushi chef Takashi Sano at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont

Omakase. In Japanese it means "I leave it to you". It's also one of the best ways to spend your night at Sokyo with sushi chef Takashi Sano. Forget about the menu. Just park yourself at the sushi counter and let the Sano show begin.

Sushi chef Takashi Sano at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sushi chef Takashi Sano

Chef Sano-san is widely acclaimed as one of the country's best sushi chefs, with a CV that includes stints at Tetsuya and Koi. There's a quiet seriousness about him as he works. A seat at the sushi bar gives you a free ticket to watch his knife work and skill, but don't expect a running commentary with your meal. He's happy to answer questions though, and will accommodate any requests or exclusions you might have for your meal. We are here for an early birthday celebration of mine, and ask that Sano-san focuses exclusively on sushi with no hot dishes included.

Snapper skin and snapper muscle at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Snapper skin and snapper muscle 
[rear] Cooked tuna

A duo of appetisers kicks off our meal. What's simply described as "snapper skin and snapper muscle" is an intriguing tangle of toothsome but tender morsels, served with a ponzu soy sauce brightened with yuzu. I alternate between mouthfuls of this and the cooked tuna on the left, plump and soft in a drizzle of sweet soy dressing.

Housemade pickled ginger at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Pickled ginger - housemade ginger slices plus Sano-san's own pickled ginger spears

The sushi stage of our meal is signified by the arrival of pickled ginger. They pickle their own ginger slices at Sokyo but Sano-san makes his own pickled ginger spears too. The chunky batons pack more gingery heat, with a satisfying juicy crunch that comes with each bite.

Snapper, sand whiting, alfonso kinmedai and aged yellow fin tuna nigiri sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
[Clockwise from top left]: Snapper; sand whiting; alfonso kinmedai; and aged yellow fin tuna

Our sushi journey begins with bright and fresh piece of snapper before moving onto delicate sand whiting, a luscious curl of Australian yellow fin tuna - aged for ten days so the fibres meld and soften - and sweet alfonso kinmedai .

Sushi chef Takashi Sano making nigiri sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Chef Sano San making nigiri sushi

There's a bottle of soy sauce on the counter but you shouldn't need it. Each piece of nigiri sushi is meticulously seasoned, brushed with the barest shimmer of soy sauce or judicious drops of dressing so they don't overwhelm or distract from the subtle flavour of each fish.

Ootoro tuna belly, aburi scampi, ocean trout and kingfish belly nigiri sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
[Clockwise from top left]: Japanese ootoro tuna belly; aburi scampi; ocean trout; and kingfish belly

There's a moment of silence when we're served the Japanese ootoro tuna belly. Its blushing shade of pink is exceeded only by its melting fattiness. Sano-san scores almost every piece of fish, the small and precise cuts decreasing your need to chew while amplifying the melt-in-the-mouth sensation.

The blowtorch comes out for aburi or seared scampi, the flames licking hungrily at the shimmering flesh. We move onto the yielding softness of kingfish belly, glazed with mustard and sprinkled with black pepper, and then a gleaming slice of ocean trout perked up with fresh lime zest and soy.

Sushi chef Takashi Sano garnishing Tasmanian uni sea urchin nigiri sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sano-san garnishing the Tasmanian uni sea urchin

Tasmanian uni sea urchin, aburi scallop, marinated scallop abductor and raw cuttlefish sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
[Clockwise from top left]: Tasmanian uni sea uchin in crisp nori; aburi scallop in crispy nori; marinated scallop abductor; and raw cuttlefish

We're barely halfway through. Over the course of the night, we'll eat 18 pieces of sushi. Our next two mouthfuls (and sushi should always be eaten in one bite) involve jackets of deep fried nori. The seasoned nori tastes just like those snack packets of Korean seaweed, adding a salty crunch to a buttery tongue of Tasmanian uni sea urchin and then an aburi seared scallop. Sandwiched inside the seared scallop is a surprise dab of cream cheese mixed with salted crumbed kombu. It works terrifically well.

Raw cuttlefish is scored multiple times and then sprinkled liberally with kombu, sesame seeds and drops of lemon oil. And while we're all familiar with the prized scallop, too often the scallop abductor gets left behind. Here Sano-san celebrates this hardworking muscle, tenderised and then piled into a gunkanmaki battleship sushi.

Cream cheese with salted crumbed kombu inside seared scallops at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Adding secret pockets of cream cheese with salted crumbed kombu to the seared scallop

Shimi saba mackerel with kombu nigiri sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Shimi saba mackerel with kombu

The presentation of the shimi saba mackerel is worth admiring for a moment or two. Draped across the top is a clear blanket of kombu seaweed, adding a minerality to the sweet oiliness of mackerel.

Sushi chef Takashi Sano making nigiri sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sano-san's delicate mastery of nigiri sushi

Watching Sano-san make each piece of nigiri sushi is mesmerising. There's such a sense of fluidity as he gently shapes each piece of fish around the rice. The sushi rice is worth mentioning too, a masterful balance of stickiness and seasoning so the rice is not too sweet, too soggy or too vinegary. It clumps just enough so it doesn't fall apart, but the grains still maintain an element of separateness.

Chef Takashi Sano blowtorching scamp, aburi scampi, aburi salmon belly and kani miso crab brain sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
[Clockwise from top left]: Sano-san blowtorching scampi; aburi scampi; aburi salmon belly; and kani miso crab brains

The spectacle of fire gets me a little snap happy much to Sano-san's bemusement. A second round of blowtorched scampi is cooked for much longer this time, imparting a deep smokiness to the flesh.

The blowtorch is skittered across the surface of chunks of crab, packed into a battleship sushi stocked with kani miso or crab brains (more actually the internal organs of a crab including the liver, pancreas and intestines).

There are more bursts of flame held over slices of salmon belly. It's seasoned with salty kombu crumbs and crowned with a dollop of aged grated daikon.

Chef Takashi Sano adding uni sea urchin roe to gunkan maki battleship sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sano-san adding uni sea urchin roe to gunkan maki battleship sushi

Salmon roe, uni sea urchin roe and raw cuttlefish gunkan maki battleship sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Salmon roe, uni sea urchin and raw cuttlefish gunkan maki battleship sushi

The big guns come into play with a special gunkanmaki battleship sushi. Salmon roe, uni sea urchin and raw cuttlefish are three of my favourite things in one mouthful. They all work in harmony, the sticky slipperiness of raw cuttlefish played off beautifully against the creamy sea urchin with briny pops of salmon roe in between.

Sushi chef Takashi Sano slicing ootoro tuna belly at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Sano-san slicing ootoro tuna belly

At this point we're nearing satiating and Sano-san asks if we'd like anything else in particular or a repeat of anything we've had so far. I succumb to another serve of the ootoro tuna belly.

Ootoro tuna belly nigiri sushi at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Ootoro tuna belly

The ootoro feels like a guilty sin, a concentration of rich buttery fat that melts on the tongue as you let out a sigh of happiness.

Tamago at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Tamago

You can finish with a plated dessert but we find the tamago suffices as a sweet end to our meal. It's unlike any tamago you would have eaten, its airy springiness more like an eggy sponge cake. This isn't an omelette cooked in a tamago pan but more of a custard that's baked in a tray in the oven. The secret ingredients? Sano-san confesses that snapper paste and prawn paste are slowly incorporated into the egg mixture, not that you can taste any fishiness in each golden cube.

We're so enamoured by this delight that Sano-san gives us some of the edge off-cuts. "That's my favourite part," he says with a smile.

Diners at Sokyo at The Star, Pyrmont
Diners at Sokyo

Our omakase bill came to $130 per head, a price I'd happily pay again for the freshness of seafood and the quality of sushi served. You can undertake the omakase option at the sushi bar or at the dining room tables. If you wish to specifically be served by Chef Takashi Sano, it is essential you make a booking in advance.

Gin and tonic at Sokyo Lounge at The Star, Pyrmont
Gin and tonic at Sokyo Lounge

And if you're still looking to prolong your night out, you can kick back with drinks at Sokyo Lounge in the lobby. We did drinks before and after dinner, and slept very well that night!


Sokyo on Urbanspoon

Sokyo Japanese Restaurant
Level G, The Darling at The Star
80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9657 9161

Opening hours:
Breakfast daily 7am-10.30am
Lunch Thursday to Saturday 12pm-2.30pm
Dinner 7 nights 5.30pm-9.30pm (til 10.30pm Thursday to Saturday)


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
The Star - Sokyo (September 2014)

The Star - BLACK by ezard
The Star - Momofuku Seiobo

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/20/2014 12:27:00 am


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market and Beatrix, North Melbourne

DSCF5907-1409

There was one place in Melbourne that stole my heart. Beatrix in North Melbourne. Welcome to the final post on our three-day Melbourne adventure. And yep, I saved the best for last. I know we managed to eat a massive amount of food on our mini-break. People would ask why we were going/had travelled to Melbourne. I don't think they really believed us when we bluntly replied "to eat".

Shoppers on the lawn at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Relaxing on the lawn at Abbotsford Convent

The only sightseeing I had planned on our (comprehensive) itinerary was the Slow Food Farmers Market. Okay, I know this involves food, but surely walking + outdoors equals some points for touristing, right? As luck would have it, our visit coincided with the monthly market at Abbotsford Convent.

Artichokes at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Artichokes

We spot the swarms of people even before we reach the car park. There are hordes of people both entering and leaving the market. Everywhere you look are happy smiles of stallholders, artisan products and a rainbow of organic produce.

Certified organic leeks at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Certified organic leeks

Certified organic Tuscan kale at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Certified organic Tuscan kale

Certified organic Dutch carrots at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Certified organic Dutch carrots

Shoppers and stalls at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Shoppers at the markets

Certified organic baby celeriac at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Certified organic baby celeriac

Dogs, kids and shoppers at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Dogs, kids and shoppers

Dr Marty's crumpet stall at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Dr Marty's crumpet stall

I zero in on Dr Marty's crumpet stall like a moth to a flame. I'd been keen to get my hands on his crumpets again after first trying them at St Ali. They're a handmade crumpet made with organic flour, and their satisfying density was something I'd craved ever since.

Dr Marty's toasted crumpets at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Dr Marty's toasted crumpets with DIY spreads $5

Hand over five bucks and you can enjoy two of them freshly toasted on the spot. There's an assortment of spreads that you can slather on as generously as you please. And you can grab a take home bag of 6 for $8.50. I still have a precious few sitting in my freezer.

Buerre bosc pears at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Buerre bosc pears

Chestnut honey by Walkabout Apiaries at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Chestnut honey by Walkabout Apiaries 

And even though my pantry is full of honey, I still couldn't say no to a jar of chestnut honey from Walkabout Apiaries, a dark and intense honey harvested from chestnut groves in the Ovens Valley.

Fruit sponge cakes by Convent Bakery at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Fruit sponge cakes from Convent Bakery

Bunches of asparagus at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Asparagus

Beetroot at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Beetroot

Chemical-free raw pistachios grown in Wedderburn at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Hang Wan from Hi-Fye Pistachios, grown chemical-free in Wedderburn

We stumble upon Hi-Fye Pistachios and are taken aback when we realise they are selling all different kinds of pistachios. Wasn't there only one? Wrong. We're told there are more than 100 types of pistachios. At their farm in Wedderburn they grow 30 different varieties from 15,000 pistachios trees.

Chemical-free raw pistachio varieties at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Some of the 30 different pistachios they grow on their farm in Wedderburn

The sirora pistachio is the one most commonly grown commercially. It has a high yield and is easily harvested by machines. Hang Wan tells us that the shelled ones she has for sale are all done by hand.

They have an impressive range of other varieties, including mohseng, mumtaz, sayfhadeeny, larnaca and badami. I pick up a tasting bag of four different varieties for $25 to take home. It's eye-opening to taste them and notice their differences in shape, crunch and flavour. Hang says that because the pistachios all ripen at different stages (they will naturally crack), they hand harvest them one by one. Only the sirora pistachios are harvested by machine.

Market stalls at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Market stalls in the Abbotsford Convent grounds

Shoppers and stalls at Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market



Beatrix, North Melbourne

Raspberry and sweet ricotta cream tarts at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Raspberry and sweet ricotta cream in a polenta cooked crust

Beatrix is tiny but has bucketloads of charm. It was the posts and IG pics from Sarah that led me to this little slice of sweet tooth heaven in North Melbourne. The owner isn't named Beatrix but Nat Paull, a qualified pastry chef who has worked with Maggie Beer, Greg Malouf, Stephanie Alexander and Cath Claringbold (Burch & Purchese).


Eggbeaters hanging at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Eggbeaters above the counter at Beatrix

The corner cafe has only a smattering of tables inside and out. There's a vintage kitsch feel the place, with an assortment of old fashioned eggbeaters hanging above the counter. Word is that if you donate your own from the kitchen, you'll be rewarded with a free slice of cake!

Cakes and pastries at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Cakes and pastries on the display counter

The savoury menu is written on blackboards mounted on the wall, but your eyes are likely to be drawn to the sweets in the display cabinet. Footed cake plates and handwritten labels on lace doilies make it hard to resist ordering one of everything. We were there on the day of the AFL grand final. Beatrix has firmly asserted itself as a Sydney Swans supporter with all kinds of red and white themed treats specifically for sale that day.

Potato brioche doughnuts with lemon sour cream glaze at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Potato brioche doughnuts with lemon sour cream glaze

I spend several minutes just gawking at everything. I expect you will too.

Date caramel and chocolate tart at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Date caramel and chocolate tart with toasted peanut crust

Rosewater meringues at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Rosewater meringues 

Rhubarb crumble cheesecake at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Rhubarb crumble cheesecake with gingerbread and cookie crumb crust

Calamity Janes at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Calamity Janes graham cookies with vanilla marshmallow, strawberry preserve and milk chocolate

Pulled pork sandwich at Beatrix, North Melbourne
The Plugger $15.50
Pulled McIvor's free range pork shoulder 

We concede to a savoury start before we hit the sweets. The pulled pork sandwich made with McIvor's free range pork shoulder is inordinately delicious. The pork is sweet and juicy, doused in a smoky barbecue sauce. There's a good handful of slaw to lighten proceedings and several tiles of crackling are the cherry on top.

Flat white coffee at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Flat white coffee

Cakes and coffee are served on an eclectic mismatch of crockery that's just perfect for Instagram.

Cakes, tarts and doughnuts at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Dessert time!

Mandarin chiffon cake at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Mandarin chiffon cake $6

I'm a huge fan of chiffon cake and this mandarin version is mighty fine. The crumb is beautifully light and fluffy, pulled apart without any resistance or residual oil on your fingers. It's as soft as a cloud with only a thin layer of tangy lemon icing on top.

Date caramel and chocolate tart at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Date caramel and chocolate tart with toasted peanut crust $8.50

At the other end of the scale, the date caramel and chocolate tart is a lesson in achieving richness without being cloyingly sweet. We sink our forks into the gooey pool of date caramel, the bittersweetness of chocolate and hit the buttery toasted peanut tart shell that's short and crisp.

Potato brioche doughnut with lemon sour cream glaze at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Potato brioche doughnut with lemon sour cream glaze $5

Potatoes, brioche and doughnuts have always been three distinct foods in my eating history but here they're presented as one. As I understand it, this delicacy involves making a brioche dough with potato starch and then frying it in doughnut form. I can confirm this is one helluva tasty mouthful. The doughnut is cakey but soft, and the lemon sour cream glaze has just the right amount of tang.

Anzac cookie at Beatrix, North Melbourne
Anzac cookie made with Myrtleford butter $2

But my favourite dessert had to be the Anzac cookie. Maybe it was the use of Myrtleford butter that elevated this Aussie icon, but it was the ideal ratio of butter, oats, coconut and crunch.

I miss you already, Melbourne. Can't wait to eat you again soon!

Date and chocolate tart and potato brioche doughnut at Beatrix, North Melbourne

Beatrix, North Melbourne


Beatrix
688 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Tel: +61 (03) 9090 7301
Open Tuesday to Saturday 9am-4pm
Beatrix on Urbanspoon



Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market
Abbotsford Convent, Providence Lawn and Sacred Heart Courtyard
1-16 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford, Melbourne
Tel: +61 (03) 9419 0826

Fourth Saturday of every month 8am-1pm
$2 entry fee per person is encouraged 
(collected by the Abbotsford Convent Foundation maintenance fund)


<< Read the first Melbourne 2014 weekend post: Cumulus Up, Supernormal and Om Nom


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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/16/2014 02:00:00 am



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