kaiseki :: sasaki, sydney

Ma. The concept of Japanese minimalism. Shibui. The aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.

Everything about Sasaki is delicate, minimalist, has beauty and purpose, and of course, the finest ingredients are precisely and proudly cooked, plated and presented.

We had the “omakase” menu, which translates to ‘leave it up to you’, the chef. A degustation of sorts.

Plump pretty oysters (Oyster, Akazu & Mandarin), silky subtle scallops(Scallops, Celeriac & Kombu), a joyously wobbly savoury custard with poached prawns (Egg & Prawn), delicate slices of fish with dipping sauce & condiments (Bonito, Apple & Ponzu), crunchy tempura asparagus with farm fresh corn purée (Asparagus, Corn & Matcha), pinkest of fish with pops of row and mushroom rice (Ocean trout, egg Yolk & Ikura), rare duck – not my thing – (Duck, soy, leek) with soup (egg in bonito broth) and choice of desserts (choux pastry and mango sorbet).

It’s a true, Tokyo-esque kaiseki style restaurant in a hidden inner Sydney city laneway.

Kanpeki. 充実. Perfection.

hartsyard | restaurant review



To celebrate Jay’s birthday last week we went to the newly hatted Newtown restaurant Hartsyard.


A work colleague Sheena has long been urging me to go, as it’s co-owned by one of her school friends and is her fave restaurant, so I have to admit I had high expectations.

The restaurant is all about community; the food is made to share and indulge and the space is intimate and dark with rustic wooden furniture, candlelight.



“Increasingly, Newtown is becoming Brooklyn to Sydney’s Manhattan, its people and places rejecting the bright and flashy for the neighbourly, the communal and the free-range.”
-SMH review [here]

We had a little trouble with the service; the wait-staff were so busy chatting to regulars that it took them 15 minutes to take our first orders and I’m not a fan of holding a table’s wine at the bar especially if the service isn’t on the ball. If I order a bottle of wine I would like to pour it when I want it!
We went a few days after the newly appointed ‘hat’ so I have a feeling everyone was a little too cool for themselves, so we’ll have to see how their attitude changes over the coming months…

The service is a shame though, because the food is amazing.
The menu is broken up in ‘Seed‘ (little bites), ‘Feed‘ (more substantial share plates) and ‘Out to Pasture‘ (dessert).

Hartsyard Manhattan
Hartsyard Manhattan

The Hartsyard Manhattan is an ingenious cocktail; bacon-infused Jack Daniel’s with sweet vermouth, bitters and maple syrup. Delicious!

The wine list is short and succinct with all the good varietals. We order a bottle from Gippsland in Victoria; 2012 Moondarra Beurot Pinot Gris. It goes perfectly with our food selections…

Oyster Po Boy
Oyster Po Boy

Seriously so good! Hint of sweet brioche little slider-like buns with a deep-fried oyster, house-made hot-sauce and coleslaw. I could eat a hundred of the Oyster Po‘s and it wouldn’t be enough!

Crispy Pigs Tails
Crispy Pigs Tails

These little crispy patties are filled with rich, meaty piggy tail meat. They’re served with pickles and a sweet & sour chutney-mustard.

Fried Chicken
Fried Chicken

How can you go wrong with Fried Chicken? It’s super crispy and the chicken meat is succulent and tender. It could do with some seasoning. And it’s served with a good old American style ‘biscuit and gravy’. Yum.

Iced Vo-vo
Iced Vo-vo

A nice touch on Jay’s dessert; a bright sparkler! The Iced Vo-Vo is a menu special and it seriously tastes exactly like Arnott’s Iced Vovo! EXACTLY!
It’s a generous serving and could easily feed two people! We ordered another dessert so they wrapped up the remainder to go.

Peanut Butter + Banana Sundae
Peanut Butter + Banana Sundae

This.Is.Heaven. Banana doughnut-dumplings dusted in sugar smothered in salted fudge, chocolate sauce and pretzel icecream. The second best dessert I’ve ever eaten. Ever.
(winner of best dessert goes to Justin North’s Becasse Banana Parfait)


33 Enmore Rd, Newtown

memorable meals

Food glorious food.

How I love to eat!

And I’ve eaten some delicious fare of late, which I thought I’d share with you.

some have been delectably healthy…

51120138419 green smoothie made with coconut water, kale, celery, apple, cucumber & mint

5142013143845 make the best of this seasons ripe creamy avocado; with lettuce, tomato & salmon

6172013214128 I’ve been experimenting with the paleo recipes.
I created paleo chicken nuggets; chicken mince, coriander, chilli, shredded coconut & then rolled in coconut flour & air fried in my Philips AirFryer!

617201321412 snacking on roasted almonds with Japanese chilli salt & paprika and coconut oil

And then the not so healthy…

6122013201432 celebrating my husband’s success (uni post-grad) with Bollinger champagne and homemade coleslaw & American-style pork ribs!

530201315265 a socialicious dinner party with friends!

614201303054 a French bistro style dinner with my girlfriends (I ate the meal on the top right; duck & celeriac mash) at Felix at The Ivy

But it’s not all about me….Harley bear had a birthday! He turned 3 years old and he had a birthday party with a few doggy friends at the dog cafe. He had a delicious lunch of mince, rice & veggies and a dog friendly birthday cake!!!


What memorable meals have you eaten of late???

moo gourmet burgers | restaurant review

Jay’s pick for October Dinner Club with the Jacksons was a last minute call, chosen for it’s location close to the city and sticking with our years theme of ‘cheap & cheerful‘!

Moo Gourmet Burgers on King St Newtown is a fun, casual, quirky cafe that servers burgers, sides & a couple of desserts. It’s also licensed so you can order beers, the odd cocktail & wine.

They have 19 burgers! That’s right – nineteen! Plus they cater for vegetarians and even have a mini-moo menu for kids.

Moo couch
Moo interior
Moo courtyard

[all pics above via]

We all meet after work and sit ourselves in a big communal table. You order at the bar and drink our beers while we wait for our orders to arrive.

Jay & I both order the Big Moo burger although I have mine with no egg.

Big Moo
Big Moo (no egg)

The burgers are GIGANTIC! And believe it or not it’s only half the size of the Deluxe Moo! The perfect burger tower is filled with 100% Aussie Angus beef pattie that is as round as the bun, cheddar cheese, free range bacon, free range egg (for Jay), pineapple, beetroot, tomato, mixed lettuce leaf, home-made mayo & tomato relish. The bun is rustic style with no sweetness. The burger tastes and looks like a really good home-made burger. It’s awesome!

Ian orders the Classic Cheese Burger which has the Angus beef pattie, cheddar cheese, tomato, mixed lettuce leaf, home-made mayo & tomato relish.

Classic Cheese Burger

Janine goes for the chicken option and orders the Chicken, Avocado & Bacon Burger which comes filled with grilled free-range chicken breast, avocado puree, free-range bacon, mixed lettuce leaf & home-made mayo.

Chicken, Avocado & Bacon Burger

We share a couple orders of Cheesy Bacon Chips & Sweet Potato Fries which could stop your heart simply by looking at them!

Cheesy Bacon Chips
Sweet Potato Fries

We sit, digest & catch-up for a while before ordering dessert to share; a Moo Split which is a tempting boat of banana, icecream, chocolate syrup, crushed nuts, whipped cream, smashed Crunchie & Snickers with a cherry on top. We are in diabetic heaven!

So as a true burger lover I can, with 100% conviction, say that this Moo burger is better than Grill’d!

If you want to try it out here’s the details:

Moo Gourmet Burgers
232 King St, Newtown NSW 2042 | 

dinner club | june

For juicy dinner club in June, Jay chose a little cheap eats Mexican Cantina Y Barra in Surry Hills called El Loco which is located in the Excelsior pub.

Jay & I meet Ian & Janine there mid-week after work and fail to get a seat inside, it’s freezing but thankfully there are outdoor heaters over the tables, and after a few issues one of the barmen gets ours working! Hazzah! 

El Loco is the most recent venture from Sydney’s most eligible bachelor & businessman, Justin Hemmes who owns the hottest bars and clubs all over Sydney.

It’s a fun cantina-style space, with Mexican wrestling posters, random colourful artifacts nailed to the walls and a no-booking policy. You just rock up, order at the counter and take your table number. There is a huge range of authentic tequilas, a small but good selection of beers (more in the hotel bar though) and a few specials on the board in addition to the menu.

El Loco on the street
El Loco inside

[above two pics via]

our cactus table numbers
beers & tequila

We all share some chips & salsa

chips, guacamole & salsa

Ian & Janine both have hotdogs. I’m not sure about the authentic-ness of a Mexican hotdog, but it looks deliciously cheesy! And we giggle as we joke about the extra long sausage!

Grilled pork Frankfurt served on a soft bun with pickled jalepenos, pico ge gallo, mayonnaise and cheese $9

Jay & I share a selection of tacos. $5 each and they are small, perfect morsels of soft taco with little layers of the most flavourful ingredients like chargrilled pork, prawn or shredded chicken, coriander, avocado and tomato/corn salsa.

selection of tacos

taco Left – Pollo – chicken, sweet corn salsa
taco middle – Camaron – prawn, salsa verde, pico de gallo
taco right – Al Pastor – spit roasted pork, pineapple salsa

We all chat animatedly as we happily munch away on our Mexican and then headed off for some hot chocolate in Glebe before calling it a night.

Food: great, tasty & fresh. good cheap eats!
Service: order at the counter canteen-style with young & friendly staff
Atmosphere: relaxed but loud. A great place to pop in and meet friends after work. You can even get takeaway.
Value for money: excellent. $25 a person with drinks!

El Loco Cantina | Excelsior Hotel, 64 Foveaux St, Surry Hills NSW 2010

monkey magic | dinner club four

Japanese fusion was on the menu for Ian’s pick for April’s Dinner Club.

Monkey Magic in Surry Hills is a beautiful space; it’s industrial but warm; an open warehouse feel with a mix of concrete and wooden floors and exposed wood ceiling beams.

the entrance stairs
the main dining room
downstairs entrance lounge



For Jay’s starter he has sushi roll; it’s so good I have food envy!


raw tuna, avocado,cucumber, anchovy crumbs, orange zest and spicy sauce

For Ian’s starter he has Japanese Skewers:


assorted skewers of prawn, chicken, cheese and vegetables

Neen and I shared duck pancakes:


wholemeal pancakes with roasted duck and hoisin sauce


Ian & Neen both have the pork belly:


it’s served with with wilted cabbage, sweet potato and “yakiniku” sauce

Jay and I both have the chicken:


it’s served with with sweet corn, baby spinach, speck, miso butter and candied orange

we all share some side dishes


The steamed greens come with a citrus miso dressing, and the salad is mizuna, radish and baby beetroot with yuzu dressing.


My absolute favourite!!! Edamame with pink salt and crispy renkon chips!


Neen & I share dessert; it’s actually not that good. The flavours, chocolate and apple, don’t compliment.


frozen meringue cream with sable biscuit, apple puree and chervil

Ian has an experimental trio of mini desserts with a sesame theme. He’s not a huge fan of his dessert either.


creme caramel, profiterole and biscuits

Jay has sweet spring rolls and he loves them. He definitely made the best choice!


with creme chantilly and green tea ice cream

Monkey Magic | 3 & 4/410 Crown Street  Surry Hills NSW 2010

They currently have a great deal – 20% off Mon-Thurs.

Food: 3 out of 5
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5
Price: 4 out of 5 (with the 20% off) 

a question a day in may | three

Day 3 question

Where’s the best place you’ve ever eaten?

This is a tough one. I do consider myself a bit of a foodie and I’ve eaten at some amazing restaurants (just see my Soul & Stomach page) so although it was a lovely trip down delicious memory lane, I have narrowed it down to three (only 3!) meals;

  1. Picnic on Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays; it was our honeymooon and from the resort we were dropped off by helicopter on deserted Whitehaven Beach for half a day. We swam in the crystal blue water, ran around starkers in the sun on the fine white silica sand and ate tasty treats from our picnic basket (prepared by the resort chef) which included Moët, cheese, fresh bread, fruit (pawpaw, mangoes, strawberries & watermelon), cashews, half a lobster, some prawns and oysters, salad and various sandwiches. Amazing.
  2. Dinner in Paris; After a long day of sightseeing we found ourselves in Trocadéro (16th Arrondissement) as the sun was setting. From there you have a view straight down the gardens (Jardins du Trocadéro), over the Seine and directly to the night-time-glittering Eiffel Tower. We took a table outdoors at Cafe Le Malakoff and had apéritifs (Kir Royal!), steak frites (for Jay) and the most amazing lobster salade (for me)! We finished with some fromage (cheese) and crème brûlée. It was an impromptu dinner and it was one the of best meals ever.
  3. Dessert at Becasse; My favourite restaurant in Sydney used to be Becasse. Justin North (exec chef & owner) outdoes himself with each dish. I say “used to be” because he has changed locations and mixed it up a bit with the philosophy; he now has Becasse (not the same menu), Quarter 21 (where you’ll find similar dishes to the old Becasse) and Etch. Jay & I ate at the original Becasse twice for our wedding anniversary and my friend Mandy had her hen’s night there (very classy no penis straws or strippers insight!). We haven’t been to the new Becasse or Quarter 21 but we ate dinner at Etch in December. Along with Quay’s Snow Egg, the most delicious dessert has now moved from the Becasse menu to the Quarter 21 menu. It is the famous & delicious Banana crème brulée, salted peanut brittle & milk coffee sorbet. [image via]

Phu Quoc | Vietnamese restaurant review

It’s kind of a joke around Sydney that unless you either live or work in Cabramatta, you don’t go to Cabramatta.

You see, Cabramatta has a gang problem. You don’t hear too much about it in the news these days but the undercurrent is still there. When we arrive at 7pm the main street of town is deserted and all the shops are locked tight with steel roller-doors. What’s is there is really really really good authentic Vietnamese food.


Back in January The Jacksons and The Williams (aka Neen, her hubby, Jay & I) had our first Dinner Club of 2012. We changed our rules this year (after two fun and disputably successful years of Dinner Club); making it about street-type food or cheap eats instead of the latest trendy restaurant.

January’s pick was mine; I opted to take us out to Cabramatta for some authentic Vietnamese at Phu Quoc.

Phu Quoc


If you google “best Vietnamese in Sydney” Phu Quoc is at the top of the list. Apparently the lunch crowd goes off with office workers but at night it’s mostly the locals that dine in.

Strings of paper lanterns hang from the roof, the tables are plastic with vases of silk flowers and the chairs are metal & vinyl, there is aircon and self-service drinks from the fridge. There is also a tabletop medley of condiments that include sauces of chilli, soy, oyster and fish sauce, a canister of chopsticks, forks & spoons and a box of tissues for serviettes.

We look at the menu, all in Vietnamese with some English explanations; there are almost 6 full pages and it’s very cheap. We get a bit carried away with the ordering (breaking one of our other rules for the year which is to stop ordering too much food!).

We order everything to share (except Jay’s Pho soup).

Goi Vit - Vietnamese duck salad
Goi Vit VIA I Heart Cabramatta

The Duck Salad (Goi Vit) is served with rice paper sheets (Banh trang) nuoc cham dipping sauce; you make your own!

Banh trang rice paper sheets and nuoc cham dipping sauce VIA Grab Your Fork

We’ve got so many rice paper rolls that we fill them with Chao Tom which is prawn meat cooked on a stick of sugar cane.

Chao tom - sugar cane prawn

Jay’s Pho soup comes out in a steamy cloud of heady aromas; lemongrass, chilli, mint & meat. He spends the next 15 minutes quietly slurping away.

Beef Pho soup
Pho condiments; bean sprouts & mint

Jay & Neen order (well, I actually order it but don’t like it so Neen takes it off my hands!) this Green & White drink which is quite strange. It’s got grass jelly, red beans, tapioca balls & rice noodles. It’s like a coconut/bean/jelly dessert but you drink it. It’s definitely an acquired-taste for me, but they like it!

Green & White drink

Ian orders the manliest of menu items; Flaming Campfire Beef which literally comes out on fire! You blow the flames out before eating it of course!

Flaming Campfire Beef

I’m not sure when this was ordered, but some Crispy Quail Wings arrive at the table. The boys chow down. Neen & I steer clear. They are cute little baby quails after all…

Crispy Quail Wings

And then there’s the Bo Luc Lac which is Vietnamese Shaking Beef that comes served with this thick mushroomy sauce & onions served on lettuce and fresh tomatoes.

Bo Luc Lac - Vietnamese Shaking Beef

We eat as much as possible (we’re sure the cooks are laughing at how much food we ordered) and shamefully leave the rest on the plates.


If you like Vietnamese food, Phu Quoc is amazing. Fresh, tasty, quick, cheap. Amazing. Just don’t order too much!!!  (FYI all of that food plus soft drinks was $80 total)

Phu Quoc | Cnr John & Hill Sts, Cabramatta NSW

well co & a french film | date night

Date night last week with hubby landed us in the Italian suburb of Leichhardt which has been taken over in March by the French for the Alliance Française Sydney French Film Festival.

We ate at Well Co which is a cute little cafe/wine bar on Norton Street (we frequent the one on Glebe Point Rd)

Well Co interior


The cafe has cute rustic decor with a mix of little wooden and metal stools, a blackboard that covers the entire wall, low hanging light bulbs above the tables inside that cast a wonderful soft glow and little mismatching candlelit table settings outside. 

evening cafe entertainment

On the weekend they have live entertainment; it’s a husband and wife team that do folk-y type music (think The Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Carly Simon & James Taylor – yay!) and some French-inspired tunes in honour of the festival. Between the two of them they play 5 instruments (keyboard, guitar, ukulele, trombone & harmonica).

the menu

The menu is simple and well priced. I’d call it modern Italian with some great wholefood vegetarian options. The wine list has lesser-known Aussie wines and few Italian varietals. The service is friendly and quick.

Scotch fillet steak with mashed potato, tomato chutney served with Japanese Yuki sauce

Jay orders the steak and he finds it cooked to his liking (medium rare), the mash is creamy, buttery and whipped to perfection and the Yuki chutney is adds a different flavour than the usual red wine jus…

Prosciutto linguine with garlic roma tomato, rocket & chilli

I am a sucker for a good linguine, and this one fills the spot perfectly; ripe tomato, spicy chilli and green, peppery rocket with just a sprinkling of crispy prosciutto.

garden salad

We share a garden salad. I would have preferred for the dressing to come on the side instead of being smothered all over it, but its OK.

Jay & Mel

Atmosphere: cute & quirky; good for a girlie catchup or a romantic dinner.
Food: cafe style modern Italian; small and large size meals.
Service: Great! Quick and friendly.
Value for money: Good.

Well Co Cafe and Wine Bar | 39-45 Norton St, Leichhardt, NSW 2040


After dinner we walk up the cafe lined street to the Palace cinema. I love this cinema; it’s old elegant art house style (no room for blockbusters here!), small capacity and beer/wine you can take in by the glass (no ‘plastic only’ rule!). The candy bar is even Italian style; gelato instead of icecream and popcorn cooked in olive oil that makes a beautiful difference taste-wise.

I love French films. We’ve been to the Leichhardt French film festival for the past 3 years. I also adore the acting of Audrey Tautou who is the star of La Delicatesse (aka Delicacy). The story is in the vein of other romantic French movies; quirky, heartwarming, drama/comedy (“dramedy”) with a whimsical tone (eg Amelie-like voiceovers) that life is full of surprises. The story tells of Nathalie (Tautou) who is uncertain of life & happiness after a tragic accident leaves her a widower. Her world is turned upside once she starts a friendship with a very odd Swedish co-worker (played by Belgian actor François Damiens).

I recommend you check it out if you get a chance! 

(Note: contrary to the voiceover on the trailer below, La Delicatesse actually refers to ‘sensitivity’ rather than the English meaning of ‘delicacy’.)

monkey mya | restaurant review

Where: Monkey Mya, 346 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
Why: February Dinner Club with the Jacksons

Earlier in the month we walked past a rowdy and funky looking Monkey Mya which Jay immediately vowed to return for his Dinner Club pick later that month…


It’s 7 o’clock Tuesday night and parking is a bitch in Darlinghurst. After driving the labyrinth of one-way streets we finally park and grab a table at Monkey Mya which is best described as a Spanish Grillhouse (it’s a little confused with Spanish, Mexican & Cuban memorabilia on the walls).

It’s got a huge list of tequilas and beers, and the food menu is basically tex-mex.


We have a shot of El Jimador (house tequila) with a Sangrita Chaser (spicy tomato, lime & salt) and drink Coronas and Dos Equis.

Buffalo Wings with blue cheese dressing

Tuesdays to Thursday there are nightly specials; we’re fortunate that Tuesday night is All You Can Eat Buffalo Wings for $20. This is too tempting for Jay & Ian to pass up, so they get ordering.  Jay says the wings are OK but a little to “American” for his liking (ie, covered in messy sauce and so spicy you can’t taste anything for a hour afterwards!). The other downside is they’re fairly busy and there is, wait for it, one waiter. As in a single person taking orders and serving for an almost full restaurant. So although it’s all-you-can-eat that would indeed be the case if you could actually get service. Craaaazy.

Ribs & Corn

Neen orders the House Smoked Beef Ribs which she says are tasty and tender. The side of corn is has a smoky, slightly spicy dressing topped with coriander.

char chicken nachos

I order Chef Arno’s Famous Nachos which are house-made tortilla chips, served with grilled chicken & salsa and sour cream/guac. When I asked the waiter how big the serve was, he indicated small with his hands, this however was not so…the char-chicken is tender and smoky and flecked with jalapenos. Delicious but a little too enormous!

The Good: The location is central and trendy. The food is fairly priced. The tequila & beer selection is fantastic.
The Bad: The service was ordinary purely because they had one waiter on the floor and one bartender serving a full house. All-you-can-eat ended up being 2 small bowls of chicken wings (totaling 10 wings).
Overall: a fun casual place to eat with friends, 3 out of 5