Wildly oscillating to 28

As cold as winter is, there’s always one day to look forward to and that’s my birthday. Each year that means getting surprised and spoilt for a nice dinner with the girlfriend. The restaurant of choice this year was a small joint in Newtown called Oscillate Wildly, and to be honest I don’t think I’ve heard of it (then again, I don’t think I know many restaurants).

Not knowing what to expect, I didn’t even realise there was a small restaurant next to Black Star Pastry, and small it is, with only enough seats for about 20 guests. Taste-wise I could probably best describe it as Modern Australian with some Jap/Asian influence.

To get started was some pork crackling. Super crispy and airy like a chip but

Strangely enough, I really love it when there’s great bread and butter at restaurants. It’s important to be warm and crunchy on the outside and this bun sure delivered. No butter this time but something better, pork fat and what I think was some sort of pate. Delicious! We made a huge mess of the table as well. Apparently it’s only available during winter.

Last appetiser before the real meal started was a gin and tonic, in sugar cane form, it was quite fun biting into the cold fibrous cane to bring out the flavour.

First real dish was avocado, ponzu and fingerlime. This one blew my mind with its simplicity yet it just seemed to work really well. The acidity and sourness from the ponzu and fingerlime just kind of melted with the avocado.

Next up was peas, parmesan and lovage. Interesting dish with the sauce a really nice deep shade of green. There were some balls that exploded with flavour and really rounded off the peas and slight bitterness of the lovage and delicate parmesan. Really airy and subtle with the parmesan flavours being quite light.

Foie, cauliflower and maple would be the next dish. There was a nice crunch from what looks like popcorn which contrasts the smooth cauliflower puree, the shavings at the top give it a bit of resistance. Flavour-wise, lots of umami with enough maple to bring our the savoury flavours.

Next dish was basically just mushroom shitake sliced up, bits of enoki in a really dark broth. Really flavoursome and the mushrooms still retained their texture without tasting raw.

Going to something more substantial was simply fish and chips and that was really it to the dish. The fish was cooked really well but simply salted to retain the whiting’s flavour. The chips however were something spectacular, they were wafer thin strips and almost like a potato chip yet still had heaps of potato flavour.

My eyes lit up for the next dish as the waiter mentioned 9+ marbling wagyu beef. More enoki and a really nice black vinegar glaze which went really well with the perfectly cooked beef. The fat had rendered completely and just packed the meat full of flavour.

Desserts were now about to come. The first was chestnuts and vanilla ice cream. Really simple dish and I really liked how the shaved chestnuts gave bite to the dish and subdued the flavours a bit, kind of makes you savour it a bit more.

The last dessert had me a bit worried to be honest, liquorice, coconut and malt, not usually flavours I enjoy but it ended up being one of my favourites of the night. Super soft sponge cake with enough of a liquorice taste but minus the bitterness. The coconut ice cream was rather light and just finished it nicely. If it were up to me, it’d be something I could eat bowls of all day.

Kaz’s dessert was well plated which is always nice given her giant list of allergies. Beetroot, rhubarb and raspberry.

Some petit fours and a candle to finish the night, the jelly cubes were a nice way to wrap up the meal. We did get the matching wines to share and I think they’ve done a really good job to match the wine with the food. I won’t go into the detail, but I found it to be complementary both ways.

One thing that we noticed towards the end was the candle holder, felt a bit game of thrones-esque.

A very enjoyable dinner and I’d totally recommend this place. The dishes were all very well balanced, the flavours seemed to just subtly mix together and felt like they were carefully chosen but also very restrained; one way of putting it is it requires you be patient and seek out the flavours a bit.Thanks again for the lovely dinner and night out, I love how you always try to find a place that’ll surprise me. As with any other restaurant choice, it was perfect.

A not so Vivid

Vivid seems to be getting duller and duller for me as the years go by. This year everything felt super spread and to me that meant a low reward to effort ratio, that is having to walk too much to see so little. Thought I would have been a little more enthusiastic as well being the first chance to stretch the legs on my new Sony A7 mk2 but that could only do so much

First up was a quick dinner at the Malaya in King St wharf, just picked a random place with Dimmi and AMEX’ $20 off deal. It was a busy place, great for groups but not ideal for a quiet dinner. Entrees were the samosas and chilli fried chicken wings.

The former were super light with good skin and full of flavour; not cheap though. The chilli fried chicken wings had heaps of sauce, too much in my opinion and a lot of batter which masked any taste of chicken.

Mains were the king prawn laksa and chicken sambol.

The laksa was delicious, a lot better than I expected; plenty of flavour, chilli and not too heavy on the coconut. A richer version of the Hunter Strett laksa (which is definitely my favourite). If it wasn’t for the price, this would be a sure favourite. The sambol was also really nice, again they don’t skimp out on flavours, it was bold and spicy; I was a bit worried that the flavours would be watered down due to location, but I was pleasantly surprised overall.

So, back to Vivid. Bangaroo was a new addition this year and the night I went it was rather quiet. A walk with sting rays turned into immersion with projections and lastly aquanauts roaming the streets. Loved the detail in the suits and the cloud hovering about their heads.

The walk to Circular Quay (behind customs house) was a decent walk with my favourite being the colourful umbrella jellyfish (not sure if that’s what they were meant to be though). A couple of projections in the laneways, a canon stand taking photos of us and a sundial type clock (where you’re the dial) were pretty cool.

All shots were taken with Sony A7 mark II with either the Sony 35mm f/2.8 and a Zenitar 16mm fisheye adapted from a Nikon mount. One thing I didn’t realise with the fisheye before it was too late is that when adapted, the distance markings were out of whack, more so than when mounted on a Nikon camera. Most of the shots are out of focus with the focus going beyond what I was intending.

The rest of my Vivid trip was simply around the harbour with my favourite being an installation at the overseas passenger terminal which almost looks like heavy rain coming down. The opera house was quite pretty this year and I thought it was pretty cool that there was an interactive station where you could control what colour the bridge and surrounding buildings were; it did mean that sometimes the colour combinations were horrible.

All in all, quite happy with the A7m2, I wish the lens was a bit faster, f/2 would have been great, but the in body stabilisation does work well allowing me to go as slow as 1/10 with the 35mm without much trouble. I’m still getting used to the RAW files from the camera, but initial impressions is that that darks and shadows don’t hold as well as the Nikon files (that, or Lightroom doesn’t handle them as well).

That’s all from Vivid, photos aren’t exciting as previous years and I didn’t even bother with a tripod this time round.

Floofs at the park

Been spending time trying to consolidate and sort the photos I’ve taken over the years into a single catalog. Primary reason is so that it’s backed up to my server and then consequently to the cloud at backblaze. $5 USD for unlimited back up of the 1 computer, for home server, I’ve got over 9 terabytes backed up. The random collection today is from a year ago when we had dogs hanging out at bicentennial park.

First we had Congee the Corgi, his floppy ear is super cute!

Then Mo the Pom

Mo the pomeranian

Marlene’s Cookie

Amanda’s Ivory (only have a single shot)

Ivory

And Tofu the Spitz (also only have 1 photo of him)

It seems that I’ve lost some photos and there was another BBQ where there were more dog photos, but there’s more photos below:

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Sous vide Bo Luc Lac

For those who don’t know Bo Luc Lac, it’s a Vietnamese dish of beef cubes (usually scotch fillet or rib eye) served with tomato rice and salad. Translated, it means shakey shakey beef, or shaken beef – like a stir fry.

I’ve done a bit of a modern take on it and went the sous vide route, why? Because I can use a cheaper cut of meat like rump or blade and still have tender meat (usually it’s made with scotch fillet). My sous vide machine is Sunbeam Duos bought for me by my lovely girlfriend.

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Before you begin, you’ll need (this will serve 4):

  • Cheap beef –  800g of rump (discounted one too)
  • Onions – 1 large
  • Garlic – 4 cloves – diced finely
  • Oyster sauce – 3tb spn
  • Soy sauce – 2tb spn
  • Sesame oil
  • Neutral oil – Canola
  • Salt and pepper

To sous vide, i pat my beef dry, sprinkled on a few drops of sesame oil, salt and pepper. Vacuum sealed it, then dropped it into the sous vide machine.

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Settings? 50 degrees for 4 hours – aiming for rare here as the meat will cook a little further on the wok (and also because this is for lunch, I want to keep it on the rarer side as the microwave will cook it further). When done, I put the meat into the fridge (again this is to prevent overcooking when tossed on the wok.

The result? Consistently rare beef throughout.

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Once cool, dice up the meat into 1.5 – 2cm cubes.

Then marinate the meat – oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, diced garlic and 3 tablespoons of regular oil (typically I’d add salt, pepper and sesame oil, but that was added earlier). Toss, and let it sit for a while – the flavours here are quite strong so you don’t need to leave it for hours.

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In the meanwhile, chop up a large onion into large chunks. I just half the onion and then cut it into 12 portions.

Final step is to get you work and shake it up, importantly though, because I don’t have a proper wok burner, I cook my beef in small batches. It’s important to keep the work hot and smoking.

Heat up your wok til it’s hot, add some oil and quickly toss the onion in, keep tossing until all the chunks break up. Next add your beef and keep stirring/shaking, you want to ensure a nice brown colour on all sides of the meat. The goal here is to brown the meat.

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The end result – for lunch I served this with a basic tomato pasta and a side of salad; lettuce, tomato and capsicum.

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Making the switch from Nikon to Sony!

So getting rid of all my Nikon camera gear leads me without a camera (well I’ve got a Sony NEX 5R that always seems to be absent from my posession). The D4s is way too big for travel and when you mount on any sort of f/2.8 zoom (especially the Tamron 15-30), it becomes rather bothersome.

Despite using Nikon for about 10 years, it’s time for a change.

So in comes the A7 mk II, Sony full-frame interchangable lens camera with inbuilt body image stabilisation (yes it’s a mouthful). It was a tough choice with Fuji being highly appealing due to a nice selection of small and fast primes, but full frame’s something I’ve been used to for  a while now, so the choice was Sony, in part also for its video abilities. The A7 II was choice despite lacking 4K video recording, I figured the in-built stabilisation would make it for any shortfalls. Time will tell.

It’s getting paired up with a Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar T*. Definitely don’t think this lens is worth the $900 price tag, but at $400 for a used one, I think it’s decent value, given its compact size.

First impressions, it’s small, but by no means compact. A little smaller and more blocky than the smallest DSLRs. It’s pretty comfortable to hold with the deep hand grip and distinct hump for the thumb. The exposure compensation wheel is a bit stiff, not as tactile as the other wheels which move with ease.

Whole bunch of custom buttons which are nice, but there’s no markings for a default function, might take a while for them to become memorised. EVF is decent, bright enough and fast enough, doesn’t feel like there’s a lag in low-light (one of my worries with an EVF) but could be more crisp, depending on what’s in frame, the aliasing (jagged lines) are pretty noticeable and you’re hoping the autofocus has got your subject spot on.

Autofocus speed has been good, haven’t seen any major issues. I don’t anticipate to shoot any fast moving objects so not too concerned with continuous focus speed, manual focus on the 35mm is average, it feels much better than previous lenses I’ve used on the Nex 5R and the indicator for focus distance is a nice touch and helps with finding where you’re pointing, seems to track better to your ring movements. The hood is interesting too, it’s designed to sit on the lens permenantly and doesn’t really add much bulk.

Just for the lols, check out the size difference.

Both 35mm lenses (but granted one is f/2.8 and the other is f/1.4), the size difference is huge, not that it’s suprising or anything.

Will be taking it out for Vivid to see how it really goes.

Alright, I’m back to blogging!

In the spirit of buying things that you don’t need because they’re on sale or they’re cheap, I decided to buy a new domain name and have decided that will signal the re-initiation of this blog. So what did I buy? http://andrewnguyen.photo/. Pretty neat huh?

If you haven’t realised, we’ve been getting more and more top level domains (TLD) being made available (the last bit of a domain name is the TLD, ‘.com’ and ‘.org’ are TLDs, as are ‘.au’, ‘.gov’, etc).  I also wanted a new email because I was sick of people spelling ntranced with an e at the start.

I’m still finding it weird to type into a URL bar. So now I have my own domain, I decided to set up email, previously I had a web host do my emails, but this time round, I decided to try an external provider, if you’re willing to pay, Google’s probably your best option. It used to be free, but now starts from $5/m a user/email address, pretty cheap if you’re running a small business. I’m a tight-ass so for me, free was the way to go.

What I found? Zoho (http://zoho.com). Free for up to 25 users and a pretty good step-by-step set up process to get your new domain name pointing to zoho. All up, it was a matter of:

  1. Opening up the control panel of your domain host
  2. Adding a few records
    1. 2 MX records to point to Zoho (these simply direct mail to your host that will handle it)
    2. a TXT record for SPV (this helps prevent your emails from being treated as spam, it basically tells other email hosts which hosts are allowed to send from this domain)
    3. a TXT record for DKIM (this is like a key that allows another email host to verify that the email was indeed sent from where you authorised.

In other news, I’m selling all of my camera gear 🙁 a little sad to see some of it go, but it hasn’t been fun to carry on holidays and I’m awaiting delivery on a new Sony A7 mk II. If you know anyone who’s interested in the following, please get in touch.

  • Nikon D4s body
  • Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 G VR mk II
  • Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 E VR
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART
  • 2x Nikon SB-900 flashes

Mermaid pools

To make the most of what’s left of the sunshine, we went for a hike to the Mermaid Pools, it’s located in a suburb called Tahmoor, about 1.5 hours south west of Sydney. It’s not too long a hike, you’ll need about 3 hours return (if you’re just heading to the pool and back), allow more time if you want to do the whole canyon.

Bear in mind that the track is not signed, you’ll be relying on the map below and a series of small yellow markers and occasional arrow on the ground to guide you. The track is mostly visible but it is possible to stray away from it without realising.

There’s an old map provided by the council. It was originally done with North facing down so keep that in mind when navigating, I might retouch it the right way later.

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Trail map, start at the top left

Download a pdf here: Mermaids-Pool-Map

Once you arrive, there’s a little dirt patch/car park on Charles Point Road (just off Rockford or Arina Road). Park your car here and follow the dirt road (keeping right) until you get to a bridge (Pheasants Nest Ford Crossing Bridge).

We initially went left and found a little lake, this doesn’t really lead anywhere though.

_NTR7863Just past the bridge is an area called The Potholes, a bunch of swirl holes from the creek water (you can see the bridge in the background).

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I found one particular hole amusing as water would gush in but not out, a little like magic.

Keep to the right until you reach the track, there are small yellow markers and you’ll reach a point where the track splits. There are arrows spray painted on the ground marked M (for Matilda track). Follow either, the tracks meet up, the top is meant to be easier.

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Shortly after the tracks converge, a path splits to the left, this is an area called the See Through pools, a very nice place to stop with pools to swim in and a small waterfall. We stopped here for lunch and it’s definitely a nice place to chill. We climbed down a few rocks to get here, but I do believe there is an easier path. We got too keen and just decided to come down, but if you follow the path a bit longer there’s one that goes left and back down.

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After a short break we kept going until we reached the Mermaid Pool. Some markings denote the split, one to the pools and one to the canyon that surrounds.

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What’s here? A lovely secluded pool.

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Entry via a 10 meter cliff jump only, also the pretty stern warning from the top.

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Water’s pretty cold, but refreshing. On the other end of the pool is also a rope swing. When we arrived there was only a small group of guys and a couple, so it’s a pretty quiet place to relax.

Exit via climbing some rocks with the assistance of a rope. Harder than it looks and there’s a few holes into the rocks so it’s a bit like rock climbing.

We went a little further to find the lookout that overlooks the pools from the other side but didn’t quite make it. You’ll see the vantage point we were after in the Eat Sleep Hike link below. We got to the spot below and decided that would be good enough. The sun was setting soon and we didn’t want to walk in the dark so it was time to go back.

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We were going to make another stop at the See Through pools but found a different path down where we saw this old engine just sitting there. Not sure where it’s from, perhaps a ship or similar, way too big for a car.

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Ended the day with some longer exposures of the flowing water along the creek._NTR8035-HDR _NTR8041

Also a head-stand, why not?

For more information about the walk, see these links below. I should have been a little more detailed in providing guidance, but half the fun is trying to figure out where to go.

Seafood pizza

Love pizza as it’s something you can really let your imagination run wild in terms of toppings and flavours. In this recipe I’ve made a seafood pizza and used some frozen dough and sauce from Costco.

Value wise – the dough’s pretty expensive for what it is, but it does much better than those frozen pizza bases. You let it sit out side for 4 hours (we took it out before leaving for work) and it rises to a really fluffy dough full of air. Stretch it out on a bench with some flour and you’re good to go.

Only tip is to place the dough in the oven for a few minutes for harden it up a bit and prevent the juices from seeping through.

What you’ll need:

  • Pizza dough – we bought frozen but you can make your own.
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozerella cheese
  • Garlic prawns – we purchased the pre-marinated ones from Woolworths
  • Smoked salmon
  • Mushrooms, onions, capsicum
  • Chilli flakes and oregano

Photos by ntranced photography. For enquiries email andrew@ntranced.com.au

Pizza’s simple, lay on the sauce onto the pizza base, spread out your toppings, add the cheese and into the oven. Don’t be shy and let the toppings and cheese go all the way to the edge.

Photos by ntranced photography. For enquiries email andrew@ntranced.com.au

We’ve got a pizza stone, so make sure you let that heat up before putting the pizza on. I maxed out my oven at 260 degrees and baked the pizza for about 15 minutes. The end result:

Photos by ntranced photography. For enquiries email andrew@ntranced.com.au

Back to blogging & Momofuku Seibo

As you can probably see, this blog’s been neglected for quite a while. To my surprise, there’s actually a few draft posts that I never got round to posting up, I know the girlfriend’s been anticipating a particular post about a particular restaurant, but ironically, the post below isn’t it! The post below was written over 2 and half years ago.


I guess when you’ve been with someone for 6 months it’s a mile stone and you’re supposed to celebrate it together by doing something nice. For this anniversary we would be going to the much-hyped and hard-to-book Momofuku Seibo in The Star. Blink and you’ll miss the place (like we did), the door completely blends in with the surrounding and the only mark which identifies the restaurant is their peach logo.

It’s a mirror finish so naturally you use it like a mirror.

_DSC3632The interior of the restaurant was a lot more casual than I had expected, as you walk in, the walk-in bar is to your left. If you’re keen to give some of the menu items a try, the bar is available for a 3 people and no bookings are taken/required.

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The setting is simple and feels rather relaxed, no fancy white table cloths, myriad of cutlery or fancily dressed staff, just a big open kitchen in the middle surrounded with more bar styled seating. Great to be able to see the chefs work their magic.

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Food here is a 13 course degustation and doesn’t take long to come out after your arrive. There’s no menu on the tables so all the plates that come out are a surprise. The first looked a little like a cigar or a spring roll, it was smoked eel wrapped in some sort of pastry. It had a really nice smooth creamy kinda texture on the inside and the superb crunch on the outside complimented by a lovely sweetness from the apple jam.
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The next was a little steamed bun with pork with a cute bottle of sriracha chilli sauce, I was very surprised to see sirarcha sauce in a high end restaurant but it just shows how good it is and how well it can go with food. The bun was amazingly soft, almost like eating a cloud and the pork was so succulent and juicy; it just melts in your mouth.

_DSC3641The next dish was potato with roe and parson’s nose (not sure what this is exactly) and it was strangely delicious, they were the best potatoes I’ve ever had, the way it was cooked gave it an amazing texture, a little elastic/resistance, super soft but not mushy at all. The roe gives most of the flavour and is well balanced by the creamy sauce.

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Mud crab with chickpea and amaranth is served next, while it looks rather simple in presentation, it’s got a great amount of flavour. The crab is nice soft yet firm enough to break up on contact. The amaranth adds a great crunchy texture which is finished by the buttery  sauce.
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I found the rose sake that it was served with to be very interesting, the initial taste was a bit strong, but the flavours subdue and it becomes a smooth and sweet flavour.
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A bowl of beef and radish makes it way out and looks lovely, we’re told to mix well and that’s when a black bean sauce encompasses the whole bowl, it looked kinda like squid ink. While it was no longer the pristine and lovely white dish it was before, flavour wise it was fantastic. Small bits of lightly cooked wagyu beef were tossed in however I think they could have had a little more.

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A plate of cauliflower and smoked egg yolk sprinkles was served next with a glass or orange wine. Never heard of orange wine before so it was interesting to try, personally found its consistency to be more like a white, but with deeper smokey flavours. I quite liked this dish as well as the slight saltiness of the fried egg yolk sprinkles meshed beautifully with the sweetness and creaminess of the cauliflower.
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Just when I had enough of vegies, some  meat came out, this time some lamb served with asparagus. It was a very strange dish, not quite what I was expecting, the lamb didn’t feel like lamb at all, more like chicken, the meat had a very soft texture (different from what it’s normally when grilled like say, medium rare).

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The next was marron which is kind of like a lobster from Western Australia. The meat had a firm springy texture while still remaining rather soft, the sauce was a little sweet with a bit of tang to create a dance on your tongue, very yum.

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This dish is their signature, it’s a lamb chop and as it came out, you can see how juicy and delicious it’ll be. Plenty of fat on the outside for a flavoursome meat, but it’s cooked a medium rare the whole way through, perfectly pink!
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You can see the lovely layer of fat which has been given a lovely golden shell. I thought it was pretty amazing and it was a high quality piece of meat.

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The sweeter stuff came next with this curd with mint and blackcurrant. The curd here was amazingly smooth and blending the sauces would give a subtle sweetness which was lovely, some sort of crispy sprinkle was a great, added another dimension with the crunch breaking up the smoothness of the curd..

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The next would be a very simple gelato dish with the addition of muntries. The gelato was amazingly smooth while the little muntries  mixed the texture up a little while a slight sourness from the berries offset the sweetness of the gelato.

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The next dish was pear and jerusalem artichoke with sunflower seeds and the simple addition of sunflower petals to add a sprig of colour to the dish.
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The final dish that came out was the biggest surprise, after we’ve had all our sweets, we get more meat! It was a lovely serving of delicately cooked pork, almost like a pulled pork. Very tender and hand torn for consumption without utensils. The sauce was sweet with a deep flavour, kind of a like a glaze and was just superb.

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As the night comes to a close, the restaurant provides you with a couple of momentos so you can remember your experience. Some kim chi, a lovely little card and so that you realise what you ate, the menu. It was a lovely experience and definitely not cheap at $185 a head but based on the variety of food that came out and the environment, I felt it was rather worth it. I know a lot of people aren’t the biggest fan, girlfriend included, but I feel like the food here is more humble and not such an abstract experience; I love the idea of each dish being a surprise.

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Hakata-Maru Ramen

Market City food court has always been good for cheap Asian lunch time eats, but if you didn’t know, you can find a very well priced and delicious ramen place called Hakata-Maru Ramen. It specialises in tonkotsu ramen serving a couple of differing variations yet still retains the low prices found else where in the food court.

The store is immediately to the left of the food court (second on the left) and is hard to miss with the Japanese styled decorations and large sign

The stall is quite open and behind the counter is the kitchen where the magic happens. Chefs preparing the noodles to perfection while quick and delicate hands work to put together the bowls of ramen.

The result is a moderately sized bowl of ramen with a few toppings. I opted for the red tonkotsu which is just the addition of a chilli sauce/paste.

A small condiment bar allows for some sauces and toppings like sesame and pickled ginger. A few sides are available to go with your ramen, my choice? The chicken wings with coleslaw for $4. Cool thing is that one bone is removed, allowing easy consumption like a drumstick.

Well onto the ramen, i personally think its quite delicious. The pork flavour is present and not too strong and the soup has a nice golden flavour. Its not overly thick which would appeal to those who cant handle a heavy thick broth like Gumshara’s.

Unfortunately the toppings are a little lacking from the stock menu with only half an egg and few bits of pork. To help fill you up though, kaedama (or an extra serve of noodles) is available for $1. Be careful to ensure the cleaning saff don’t take away your bowl.

Overall its a great place,good food and staff with smiles in their faces makes for a good meal. You also cant beat a genuine bowl of tonkotsu for less than $9.

all about being ntranced