Jugemu&Shimbashi – 2011-2012

Jugemu&Shimbashi is a twin themed restaurant in Neutral Bay: Jugemu is a sleek fitout for teppanyaki, with the grill in the far left corner. Shimbashi is a more traditional side, with a soba preparation area at the front right. Reviews will tell you that this place is overpriced, and I can certainly confirm this. However, you do get some amazing soba! This post covers three visits over 2011 – 2012, with the focus mainly on the different dishes available; only two of the dishes below were ordered twice at two different times.

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Quay – 06 December 2011

Quay was the second degustation I had, and my third fine dining experience. I only compare this to Tetsuaya’s, however, and not Rockpool Bar and Grill. I was still relatively new to the game, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived. I only knew three things about Quay at the time – Jewels, Snow Egg, and Peter Gilmore. Oh, I do believe it was ranked 26th in the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants at roughly this time.

I’d looked up at Quay every time I walked past the Overseas Passenger Terminal, wondering what mysterious entry point the restaurant had. It turns out it was actually ordinary, just a set of stairs to the upper level. We’d arrived early for our booking, but they were accommodating and allowed us to pass time on the balcony while they finished setting up for the night’s service. As a bonus, when they were ready, we were seated at a window table – a prime spot for the view! Being the only diners at the time, we had several waiters offer menus and drinks. As a side of trivia, Masterchef once filmed an episode here where I marvelled at the silver ceiling. It turns out in real life, it’s not as shiny and as a few tarnishes from all that cleaning.

That night, there was a large ship docked outside the restaurant, so the staff apologised for the view. They did mention that it would be departing shortly, and they even made conversation in regards to watching a fluouro-vested man at the docks having been there for the last two hours to ensure everything went smoothly.

While they have an a la carte menu, we opted for the degustation. We were then presented with an amuse bouche of ginger milk curd in a seaweed and oyster consomme. It was delicous and warming, and helped stimulate our appetites for what was to come.

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Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney – 07 April 2011

Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney was the next stepping stone in my restaurant adventures. Renowned for its steak and dazzling Riedel glass display, it was time to pay this place a visit. I was a little confused as to how to obtain the famous David Blackmore full blood wagyu burger, and the restaurant isn’t where you go to get it; it’s only available at their bar. They also have one of Australia’s most extensive wine lists, often featuring some sommelier’s choices, which is worth checking out.

 
A selection of hams including prosciutto, jamon serrano, jamon iberico, which came with a side of pickled vegetables. This was the first time I’d sampled jamon, and they certainly all tasted different, with the iberico tasting sweeter but had a richer flavour.
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Tetsuya’s – 20 April 2011

Tetsuya’s was my very first fine dining experience, so it marks the official beginning of my food adventures. It’s also the poorest quality set of photos since for a number of reasons:

– I had no idea what the photo/dining etiquette was

– I didn’t intend to post the pictures

– I have never paid this much for food before

– I had zero expectations of what the food would look like and taste like

Due to the time difference, working off memory means that the recount may not be accurate, but the key points are still used as comparison points in my current restaurant experiences.

First things first. Being the first fine dining restaurant I’d ever booked, I was mildly surprised that they required credit card details upon making a reservation, however, the booking process was very smooth, albeit at the time, I believe I called their reservations line, received an email with a form attachment for my payment details, and then received confirmation of the date. In addition, I was advised to call and confirm my reservations two days prior. It was such a nerve wracking experience!

I never knew that the best restaurants in Sydney were generally located in the city, I always imagined such famed restaurants being tucked away in their own magical land that only those attending knew how to access. It sounds weird, but I really did think that. This visit demystified my far-fetched theories, so a short walk on Kent Street lead me to the nondescript building that was home to some of the best food around.

To this date, it’s still the most interesting setup in terms of floor plan. Being slightly bewildered, I recall us being ushered into one of the many dining rooms, where each table had chairs facing the window into a secluded zen garden. There was a very subtle light show where the shadow of a bird would be projected, flitting through the leaves of the garden. The floor was relatively quiet, matching the calm, Japanese ambience of the restaurant.

There were many firsts for me here – being asked for still or sparkling water, being asked what occasion I was dining for, and the offering of oysters for “a small fee.” Any offering of oysters has always elicited a yes from me.

There was only one choice here – their degustation in full, so we weren’t offered a menu or advised of what was coming. That wasn’t a concern, but it was something that I noticed.

 
The first course was a cucumber gazpacho with goat curd (or creme fraiche). Cold soup was new to me, and I found that it tasted quite nice. The oysters were served shortly after, dressed with a rice wine vinaigrette. Those were some delicious oysters!
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Greenhouse by Joost! – 13 March 2011

 

Greenhouse by Joost was a special pop-up in Sydney, at the picturesque Circular Quay, with a view of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, as well as tall ships as they sailed past. It featured in MasterChef in a challenge of minimising waste, but I had first heard about it after Matt Stone featured on an episode of Iron Chef Australia. Being a zero waste program, I was very interested to see the philosophies transformed into a viable dining venture – this was the closest I was going to get, short of travelling to Perth and visiting the actual Greenhouse.

It was just a green rectangular pop up by the water’s edge, accompanied with a shed that was covered in a mural of orange butterflies. Close up, the green walls were made of countless strawberry plants in pots, some of them flowering happily in the sunshine. There were no lights on the inside, relying on natural light, and beeswax tealights after sunset.
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