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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills

12 hour roast pork crackling banh mi at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills

How do you make a banh mi even better? Add pork crackling, I say. They roast their pork belly low and slow at the new Great Aunty Three in Surry Hills, cooked overnight in temperature-controlled ovens and then cranked up in the morning so a layer of crackling bubbles up across the surface.

Buddha at service counter at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Service counter with a laughing Buddha

The Surry Hills outpost is the first step of expansion for the Enmore success story that is Great Aunty Three. It's all about fast and zingy Vietnamese classics: banh mi Vietnamese bread rolls, pho noodle soup, vermicelli salads and goi cuon rice paper rolls with Vietnamese coffees or fruit shakes on the side.

Owner Michael Le at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Owner Michael Le making banh mi

At the helm is Michael Le, a Vietnamese Australian who worked in the corporate sector for nearly ten years before following his heart and entering hospitality. His inspiration was his Grandma, a successful restaurateur in Can Tho, Vietnam who now works in Cabramatta, Sydney. He calls her bà ngoại, or maternal grandmother, but everyone else calls her Great Aunty Three.

Banh mi salad options at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Salad and herbs in the bain marie

Banh mi production line at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Banh mi production line

The Surry Hills store has been barely open a week but there's a genuine sense of energy in the air with a predominantly new team behind the counter. There's not a lot of seating here (currently six stools around a communal table) but they promise there'll be a little more installed soon. Michael will be heading up the store in Surry Hills while his wife, Mai will continue to look after the Enmore outlet.

Goi cuon rice paper rolls at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Goi cuon rice paper rolls $7.50
Tiger prawn, roast duck and chicken fillet with avocado

Prices are a step up from Enmore (where rents are cheaper), but the menu is still competitive with its Surry Hills neighbours. Goi cuon rice paper rolls are packed in ready-to-go boxes at $7.50 for three. There's a myriad of combinations but we tuck into tiger prawn, roast duck and chicken fillet. The skins are soft and sticky, packed tightly with noodles, lettuce and herbs. The sauce isn't the usual hoisin peanut mix, but lighter and sweeter in taste.

Self-serve water fountain at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Self-serve water fountain

Grilled lemongrass chicken fillet salad at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Grilled lemongrass chicken fillet salad $10

Cold vermicelli noodle salads are always a winner in summer. We go with the grilled lemongrass chicken, so juicy and succulent we almost fall off our stools when they tell us it's chicken breast. It's a rainbow of crunch, the slices of chicken curled up on a bed of cold vermicelli noodles with bits of lettuce, carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts, perilla leaves and mint. I wish the nuoc cham dressing had a bit more of a fish sauce punch but the roasted peanuts are fried shallots provide plenty of distraction.

Chopsticks and grilled lemongrass chicken fillet salad at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills

A medium sized bowl will set you back $10. They also do versions with roast crackling pork, grilled barramundi or faux chicken and lemongrass tofu for any vegetarians in the house.

12 hour roast crackling pork banh mi at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Pork banh mi: The Sydney $9
12 hour roast crackling pork with shredded apple slaw and house sauce

The classic pork banh mi is elevated with slices of 12 hour roast crackling pork. Admittedly $9 is a step up from most banh mi shops, but then so is this pork beauty. The long slow roast means that the pork fat has rendered its way throughout every crevice of meat resulting in flesh so soft and juicy you may just shed a tear. Add surprise shards of crackling throughout and you've got one helluva sandwich.

They're not afraid to break the banh mi rules either, if the soft shell crab, tiger prawn and barramundi fillet ("The Bondi") is any indication. They're mixing everything up here, with lemongrass chicken, roast duck, chorizo omelettes and vegetarian faux chicken options also up on the board.

Banh mi at Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills
Crusty banh mi

They do a pho beef noodle soup for an even ten bucks and the ubiquitous gua bao makes an appearance too. Everybody's favourite steamed lotus leaf bun comes sandwiched around soft slabs of pork belly or slices of roast crackling pork ($8 for two).

The coffee machine wasn't working when we visited, but they'll be cranking out Vietnamese coffee with or without condensed milk soon. You can also keep cool over summer with Vietnamese iced coffees, homemade lemonade or frappes in coconut and lime, mango or watermelon, lychee and jackfruit. Sweet.

Great Aunty Three, Surry Hills


Great Aunty Three on Urbanspoon

Great Aunty Three
92-94 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 8882

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 11am-3pm



Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Surry Hills - Spice I Am
Surry Hills - Surry Hills Eating House
Vietnamese - Pho Pasteur, Haymarket

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/26/2014 08:39:00 pm


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014

Red velvet cake at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014

Last year we endured a thunderstorm. This year our food bloggers' Christmas picnic took place on one of the hottest November days ever seen. The mercury hit 36C on Sunday but that didn't stop 74 Sydney food bloggers congregating at Bicentennial Park to celebrate good food, drinks and each other.

Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 at the Hill Pavilion, Bicentennial Park #sydfbxmas2014
Hill Pavilion at Bicentennial Park

This was the 6th picnic organised by Chocolatesuze and I, an event that grows each year in size. We'd booked the Hill Pavilion in case in rained, but it ended up providing much needed shade from the scorching sun.

Picnic table lunch at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Getting ready for foods

Everyone brought a dish to share, an overwhelming bounty of savoury food, desserts, soft drinks and alcohol.

Food bloggers photographing food at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
But first let me take a food photo

There were mandatory food photos of course. After the formalities were over though, everyone was keen to dig into everything all at once.

Lemper Indonesian sticky rice with chicken at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Lemper Indonesian sticky rice with shredded chicken by Irene's Getting Fat

There's somehow more sweets than savouries, but I'm glad I nabbed the last lemper, a bundle of fragrant sticky rice stuffed with tender shreds of chicken.

Massaman beef empanadas at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Massaman beef empanadas by Random Meals

Massaman beef empanadas at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Potato and meat croquettes by Eat Your Teacup

Thai milk tea macarons and pistachio macarons at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Thai milk tea macarons and pistachio macarons by Ramen Raff

Raff's macarons disappeared in flash but I managed to try half of each. Raff's macaron shells are always impressive, with just the right amount of chew.

Strawberry Nesquik cheesecake shooters at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Strawberry Nesquik cheesecake shooters by Crystal Noir

There was no shortage of desserts.

Fancy Santa cookies and milk at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Fancy Santa cookies and milk by The Sweet Lab

Baked doughnuts at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Baked doughnuts by For Food's Sake

Hamburger cupcakes at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Hamburger cupcakes by Oh Burger, Me

The hamburger cupcakes were probably the most photographed dish of the day. The brownie sandwiched in a cupcake with icing cheese and salad looked just like the real thing!

Evil Secret Santa at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Evil Secret Santa gets underway

Evil Secret Santa is always a highlight, with everyone keen to steal the most lucrative presents.

Waffle maker fun during Evil Secret Santa at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
OMG it's a waffle maker

You do not want to know how many times this animal waffle maker was stolen.

Piggy bank reveal during Evil Secret Santa at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Just checking whether there's money in that piggy bank

But over-riding everything was a great sense of humour about it all. 

Selfie stick group photos at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Selfie time!

A selfie stick made an appearance and it's actually quite amazing how it changes the dynamic of a group photo. Everybody wanted in, and couldn't stop laughing either.

Selfie stick group photos at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Selfie stick group photo

Selfie stick group photos at the Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 #sydfbxmas2014
Not one, but two selfie sticks in circulation

Thank you everyone for coming and for surviving the heat! Don't forget you can view all the tweets, pics and Facebook posts from the day by checking the #sydfbxmas2014 hashtag.

Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2014 group photo #sydfbxmas2014
[Photo credit: Rosa]

#sydfbxmas2014 attendees:
2 Hungry Guys | Angie Lives To Eat | A Little Bit of Tang | Artaco Eats | A Table For Two | Aus2Usa | Belly Rumbles | Chewing Around Town | ChocolateSuze | Citrus and Candy | Confessions of a Glutton | Cooking Crusade | Crystal Noir | Culinary Runway | Diana Suen | Eat Your Teacup | Excuse Me Waiter | Food Is our Religion | Food MAB | For Foods Sake | Four Fifth On Food | Go Bake Yourself | Grab Your Fork | I Snapped Et | iFat | I Love My Food Lots | Inner City Stinge | Irene’s Getting Fat | Journey From Within | Just Food No Words | Khismosa | Lateral Eating | Live To Eat Or Eat To Live | Maddie Loves Food | Meet the Bff | Milktea | Ms Brulee | Nessy Eater | Next Stop Food | Oh Burger Me | One Small Pot | Penguin Says Feed Me | Petit 4s | Ramen Raff | Random Meals | Raspberri Cupcakes | Rosa Dyn | Sarah vs Carbs | Small But Hungry | Spoon Fork and Chopsticks | Spoonfuls of Goodness | Sugarlace | The Chronicles of Hilda | The Food Diary by CK | The Gourmet Couture | The Perks of Being a Food Blogger | The Random Foodie | The Sweet Lab | When the World Stops Spinning | Weekend Food Escapes | Western Sydney Food Blog | What Em Did | What the Fork Should I Eat | Wonderlaind

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/23/2014 11:57:00 pm


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



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