Yebisu Izakaya @ Regent Place, Sydney

Yebisu Izakaya

Yebisu Izakaya is located at Regent Place, a notoriously bustling shopping and dining hub in Sydney’s CBD that is home to a number of drool-worthy restaurants specialising in Asian fare. We stepped into the establishment for an early dinner and this proved to be the best idea we’d ever had. We didn’t have to wait for a table! This was a very good thing because not 15 minutes later, a ridiculously large queue of over fifteen people had built up outside the popular izakaya. This was a Friday night and it seemed like everyone wanted to get into this casual after-work Japanese bar to have some drinks and hot food.

Yebisu Izakaya Kirin Ichibanshibori Yebisu Izakaya Yebisu Izakaya

Being a special night for the both of us, we decided to splurge a little on some of our favourites. There were so many things we wanted to try! As is the trend nowadays, you get to pick your order through a touchscreen interface at your table (in Yebisu’s case, they use iPads). This saves a lot of time and orders are placed immediately at the touch of a finger. Of course, once you select your item, you won’t be able to cancel it, so a lot of deliberation will need to be made before you pick something. The cool thing though, is that the screen is able to tell you in real time exactly when the chefs have started to cook your meal, and exactly when it is done.

Agedashi Eggplant

We started the evening with a bowl of the Agedashi Eggplant ($7.80). Being huge fans of both agedashi tofu and eggplant, we loved the idea of combining the two. The tentsuyu (dipping sauce) was particularly nice; a nice combination of sweet and salty. While the eggplant was also perfectly cooked (succulent, yet ever so slightly crunchy), I would have preferred it if the eggplant itself was deep fried rather than surrounded by bits of tenkasu (crunchy bits of deep fried batter).

Mentai Tsukune

Next, we ordered the Mentai Tsukune ($4.80) and Teriyaki Chicken Thigh Skewer ($2.80). The tsukune definitely won this round. Perfectly succulent morsels of grilled chicken meatballs coated in a spicy cod roe sauce. The slightly spicy sauce complemented the juicy chicken well. Though slightly less memorable, the chicken thigh skewer was also nicely grilled and coated in a sweet, shiny tare sauce. As with most yakitori (heck, any grilled food), it’s washed down well with a cold beer.

Akashi Style Takoyaki Akashi Style Takoyaki

We soon spotted the Akashi Style Takoyaki ($7.80), something new to both of us. I’ve been a huge fan of takoyaki for as long as I can remember. Who can turn down the cute little balls littered with dancing katsuobushi (bonito flakes)?! Naturally, I was quite excited about trying the mother of takoyaki, akashiyaki. The texture is quite different, being noticeably softer and a lot eggier in taste.  The akashiyaki is dipped into a light dashi broth before eating, softening it even more and making it melt away in your mouth! Akashiyaki is considerably plain compared to takoyaki, but I can definitely see myself ordering it again in the future.

Karaage Chicken Karaage Chicken

Last to arrive was our beloved Karaage Chicken ($8.80). To be honest, I wasn’t particularly amazed by Yebisu’s karaage. A bit too crunchy for my liking – they might have actually burnt the pieces slightly (you can judge from the pictures). But at least the dish came with a handful of salad leaves and some sweet chilli sauce for dipping.

Komagura Sake

Just when we thought we’d had enough food to add to our bellies, we were startled by sudden bell-ringing and yelling a few tables down. Panic-stricken and wondering whether we needed to evacuate immediately, we spotted a sake-laden drink trolley making its way around the restaurant! The merry waitress soon spotted our bewildered faces and rushed over to offer us a drink. Naturally, we ordered a serving of the Komagura Sake ($18.00 per 100mL) – well, it’s a bit hard to say no when everybody is staring at you, waiting for more bell-ringing and yelling like you’ve just won the 1 millionth customer prize. The sake is poured at your table into a glass placed in a wooden masu box. After pouring the drink, the waitress cheerfully rings her bell and lets everyone in the restaurant know that somebody just ordered sake!

Kyoto Style Green Tea Cheesecake Kyoto Style Green Tea Cheesecake

Despite eating more than enough for the night, we could not resist trying their Kyoto Style Green Tea Cheesecake ($6.80). While it wasn’t the greatest cheesecake in the world (the green tea flavour was hardly present), it was still impressively decorated and adorned with a purple orchid, no less. The cake had a nice creamy texture with a delightfully crunchy base. It was a nice way to end our meal.

Yebisu Izakaya

Overall, we both thoroughly enjoyed dining at Yebisu. True, some of the food could have been prepared a little better, but what Yebisu lacked in flavour it definitely made up for in atmosphere. I would happily return to try more of their (insanely large) menu.

YEBISU IZAKAYA
Regent Place, CBD
Shop 7-10, 501 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Opening hours: 12 – 2:30pm (lunch), 5 – 11pm (dinner)

Yebisu Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Chewy Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks {flourless}

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

It kind of snuck up on us, but hey! This blog just hit 1500 followers and it now has over 70000 page views. That’s a pretty neat feat! I wish I could update this space more often, but it gets a little tough when you’ve got so many other things to juggle. That said, James and I have been researching things to do in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Mount Kōya and Osaka. We’ve booked everything for our November-December Japan trip and I’m happy to announce that we have a very packed itinerary already planned. James will be going to Vanuatu for Christmas as soon as we get back, and then he’ll be meeting me in Singapore to welcome the New Year! Looks like the final few weeks of 2014 are going to be pretty hectic for us.

Organic Coconut Oil Chopped Dark Chocolate Oats, Barley and Coconut Honey

We made cookies a few weeks ago. I decided to experiment with a new ingredient: rolled barley flakes! Now, I don’t think I have ever mentioned barley on this blog before, so let’s talk a little bit about that. When cooked, barley has a chewy, pasta-like consistency and a subtle nutty flavour. I was brought up in Singapore, so I am most familiar with the grain being used as an ingredient to make barley water, a refreshing drink sweetened with rock sugar (and sometimes flavoured with lemon) that has time and again been touted for its healing properties. Not many people are aware of barley’s health benefits and write it off as just another typical cereal grain. However, barley actually has some pretty impressive attributes that surpass even oats.

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

Health Benefits of Barley:

  • controls blood sugar better
  • lowers glucose levels
  • lowers glycemic index
  • better insulin response
  • beats oats in glucose response study
  • reduces blood pressure
  • significantly lowers total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides
  • significantly reduces visceral fat

Source: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

These cookies consist of a blend of rolled oats and rolled barley, a good deal of desiccated coconut, some coconut oil, a drizzle of honey, two eggs, and a wild smattering of dark chocolate chunks. If you think about it, that’s not really a whole lot of ingredients. These are the chewy, crumbly kind of cookie — dense, textured and tightly packed with wholesome grains, a breakfast cookie if you will. Flavour-wise, they remind me of soft and chewy Anzac biscuits that aren’t overly sweet and are maybe just a little bit healthier for you. The distinctive taste of coconut and the smooth richness of dark chocolate perfectly complement the hearty mouthfeel of the oats and barley to create a wonderfully satisfying snack.

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

Chewy Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks
adapted from The Healthy Chef’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies; yield: ~12 large cookies.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup rolled barley
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
60g coconut oil, melted
60g honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100g dark chocolate, chopped

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C and line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, barley, desiccated coconut, coconut oil, honey and eggs. Thoroughly mush everything together using clean fingers so that the ingredients clump together.
  3. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, then add the chopped chocolate and combine.
  4. Carefully form the mixture into 12 large cookies and place them onto the prepared baking tray, flattening each cookie slightly. The mixture is quite sticky – dampen your fingers with some water to prevent it from sticking to you while you shape the cookies.
  5. Bake cookies for approximately 20-22 minutes, or until golden and fairly firm on top.
  6. Remove tray from oven and leave cookies to cool before serving. They will be crumbly when hot, but will firm up when they cool.

Oat & Barley Cookies with Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chunks

Chinese Garden of Friendship @ Darling Harbour, Sydney

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney

Prior to heading to the aquarium, we took a look around the beautiful Chinese Garden of Friendship. Conveniently located at Darling Harbour, the garden was built as a symbol of friendship between Sydney and Guangzhou to mark Australia’s bicentenary in 1988. Aesthetic and harmonious elements make up the garden’s sizeable landscape: koi-filled lakes, gushing waterfalls, curious rock formations, stunning bonsai trees and the presence of interesting wildlife, just to name a few. With such lovely backdrops for photographs, it is no wonder the garden is known as a popular venue for weddings and functions.

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney

When James was young, he had always wanted to move to Sydney. In his mind’s eye, he pictured himself visiting the garden regularly during his spare time, spending the day there and maybe reading a book in one of the peaceful pavilions. The idea that such a tranquil space could exist in the middle of a bustling city environment greatly appealed to him. As for me? Well, a magpie-lark decided to attack me while we were there (I guess it really didn’t like my camera and my god, that beak makes a vicious weapon), so I have other ideas about this garden. At least a territorial seagull came along and managed to teach that evil bird a good lesson!

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, SydneyChinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney

CHINESE GARDEN OF FRIENDSHIP
Pier Street, Darling Harbour
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
Opening Hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm
Admission: $6 (adult), $3 (child/concession)
www.chinesegarden.com.au

Chinese Garden of Friendship, Sydney

Other posts from the Sydney series:
Angela’s Birthday Weekend Getaway | Taronga Zoo @ Sydney, New South Wales

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins {with coconut oil & soy milk}

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

We’ve been watching a lot of movies of varying genres lately. I finally caved and sat through Disney’s Frozen (2013) for the first time and I must say: how the in the world did I ever go so long without watching such an adorable movie?! Sven, that ridiculous reindeer, was my number one favourite. Ender’s Game (2013), a sci-fi film based on a novel by Orson Scott Card, struck me as somewhat slow-moving, but the story remained fascinating enough for me to watch the entire thing. Asa Butterfield is quite an impressive actor, and you can’t really fault Harrison Ford. We also watched Odd Thomas (2013), a mystery thriller based on a Dean Koontz novel about a dude who can see dead people, though it is nothing like that creepy movie with Bruce Willis. The plot is intriguing, oftentimes incredibly amusing and actually altogether quite brilliant. Finally and most recently, we watched Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006). Probably one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen. At least that was the conclusion I came to after watching the final few scenes. Those of you who’ve seen it will know exactly what I mean. Nonetheless, the cinematography was superb and who doesn’t love Ben Whishaw and Alan Rickman?

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Okay, so these muffins. I would like to stress the importance of the lack of butter and full cream milk in this recipe. Use coconut oil and soy milk (any non-dairy milk, really) and you will be rewarded with muffins that are healthier and not overly heavy. These muffins will sit much more comfortably in your stomach than any regular dairy-laden muffin would. Also, use dark chocolate chips with a high percentage of cocoa. If you don’t already know, the plant chemicals in dark chocolate have been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation, among many other things. Read more about the health benefits of dark chocolate consumption here. As for coconut oil, you can find some evidence-based health benefits of the superfood ingredient here, if you are interested.

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

The muffin batter is easy enough to whip together — you’ll end up with a pale and pretty mixture reminiscent of cookie dough. The muffins themselves rise beautifully in the oven and bake to a lovely crisp-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside sort of perfection. I think it’s safe to say these were a huge hit with everyone who tried them. Well, you’d be a lunatic to turn down something so thoroughly studded with warm, ooey-gooey, melty chocolate chips. Granted, these little baked goodies seemed to be more chocolate than muffin, really. What’s not to like?

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Interested in other types of muffins? We can offer recipes for a good batch of Sugar-Dusted Green Tea Chocolate Chip Muffins {eggless & butterless}, Chocolate Honey Buckwheat Muffins {gluten, grain & dairy free}, Savoury Polenta & Semi-Dried Tomato Chilli-Cheese Muffins {butterless}, and Chocolate Cream Cheese Walnut Muffins {eggless}.

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins {with coconut oil & soy milk}
a simple butterless recipe for chocolate chip muffins; yield: ~12 regular muffins.

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup organic soy milk*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups dark chocolate chips

* I used Pureharvest’s Organic Unsweetened & Malt-Free Soy Milk in this recipe.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 210°C and line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Mix well, set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly stir together the coconut oil, soy milk and eggs.
  4. Using a large wooden spoon, fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined – don’t worry if the mixture remains a little lumpy.
  5. Add the dark chocolate chips and gently fold them into the mixture. Do not overmix.
  6. Carefully spoon equal amounts of the batter into the prepared paper cases, filling them just over three-quarts full.
  7. Bake in the oven for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are a nice golden brown and have started to crack a little.
  8. Remove tray from oven and transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. Best eaten still slightly warm.

Storage tip: Let muffins cool completely before storing them in an airtight container. Muffins will keep for about 4-5 days after baking. For a heavenly, gooey, melty chocolate treat, zap muffins in the microwave for a quick 20 seconds before eating — they’ll be hot and fluffy just like when they first came out of the oven!

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins