Friday, November 30, 2012


 Sometimes I really want Japanese food.  I am not in a position to bail to Japan on a whim, so must make do with local variants.  Shinjuku is not bad, and is especially good once you factor in how cheap it all is.  M and I tend to like to eat bitty food rather than getting a smaller number of large dishes.  This approach worked excellently at Shinjuku, where the selection of nibbling sized dishes was very cheap (7-12/dish), and contained a broad selection of tasty things to try.  It seemed also to be cheaper than ordering larger dishes, which came in at 22-27 (or thereabouts) for bento boxes.

Fried gyoza.  Not traditional pot-stickers, but the other option was just steamed, and that wouldn't be fun either.  Good, but not exactly what I am looking for in gyoza.

Mixed tempura.  Shrimp, assorted vegetables.  Not too oily, nice crispy batter, and the dipping sauce was excellent.

Agedashi Tofu.  Good.  Broth was perhaps a little light on flavour, but this wasn't a big issue.

Chicken Kara-age.  Smaller pieces than I was expecting, but with a nice flavour on them. Good.

Okonomyaki. Tasty as it always is, although perhaps a little thin?  Wasn't quite enough of it.  Oh well.

I failed to take any photos of the Takoyaki.  They arrived, we ate them, I remembered the camera (phone). Oh well.

We shared them all, for I think $48 total food spend.  We left full and happy.  Cheap and simple Japanese food, in a pleasant if utilitiarian fitout.  Beers were reasonable prices, although there were none o the interesting Japanese craft beers available, just offerings from the big breweries.  Oh well, too much to ask I guess.  I will happily go back here.

Shinjuku Japanese Restaurant
7 Anglesea St, Hamilton 3204
(07) 838 0064

Friday, November 23, 2012

Clarence Wine & Tapas

An expansion/side-project/diversion for the folk running the systematically excellent Mavis & Co, Clarence seems to already be a hit.  We fronted up on a Friday, without booking, and made do with seats outside. These were made bearably by it being a pleasant night, and the heaters being powerful.  Weren't after too much, just some things to nibble on and perhaps a glass or two of wine.

Warmed marinated olives, cracked pepper and sage.  Tasty.  

Tempura soft shell crab w/ mushroom ceviche and XO.  Mushroom ceviche is not just a thing, it is a wonderful thing.

Above and below are a tasting platter.  Highlights for me were the crumbed gurnard and the piquante peppers with baby corn, feta and paprika.  (In the top photo, those fried balls are peppers, in the photo below, the gurnard is front right)

Dessert! This was a blue cheese brulee, because why not?  Not sweet at all, and excellent.

A very dark chocolate tart, again not too sweet. Buttermilk and raspberry to take the edge off.

Not everything worked.  There was a pate with prunes on the tasting plate which I didn't think quite hit the right notes, but the things which did, were excellent.  Service was still more like a cafe than a restaurant, which I like, but I could imagine it putting some people off (especially when the food is this good).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dogfish Head: 90 Minute IPA

From the Dogfish Head website: "Esquire Magazine calls our 90 Minute IPA "perhaps the best IPA in America.""  I can see why.  M had just finished telling me that she was a bit over IIPAs, but a sip of this was completely convincing.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Liberty Brewing: Yakima Scarlet

Do Liberty Brewing make a bad beer?  If so, I have yet to find it.  The Yakima Scarlet is, according to the brewers, something of a long term project, taking 7 iterations before release. It is a rich red colour, strong nose, good (US) hoppiness.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Volare French Toast

Volare make some nice breads.  We picked up a loaf of their Pain au Levain a while back, and finished it up one weekend morning with french toast.  The secret to sweet french toast mix is buttermilk + cinnamon, with just a little sugar.  I might have pan fried some bananas in butter to go with the rhubarb/boysenberry coulis, and the whole thing is topped with greek yoghurt for a little tart offset

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dogfish Head: Palo Santo Marron

Sometimes you age beer in special casks to make it extra delicious.  Dogfish head has this down.  Of course, they also did it to a sufficiently high alcohol content that the US requires them to call it a 'malt beverage' rather than a beer... because USians are weird about alcohol.  If you like the powerful beers, you should have a try of this.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Guldendraak 9000!

Guldendraak is amazing. Guldendraak 9000 was described to me as the more sophisticated older sibling.  I was intrigued.  It isn't as in your face as the standard Guldendraak, and lacks a bit of the pure maltiness that really makes the standard one take off.  It is very good, but i'm not sure its better than the standard version, at least for my taste.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


We went to Palate on a not-quite spur of the moment jaunt.  Booked a day in advance, for a weekend evening, and found ourselves in a comfortable two person table in the lower area, looking out over the deck. It wasn't yet quite warm enough for outside eating, but in a few weeks the opportunities for snacking and drinking on the deck here will be pretty fine.  The drinks list looked, from my cursory perusal, as though it would hold up well to such usage.  (Cursory perusal follows from the pre-made decision to go all in on a tasting menu with matched wines).

Now, as we go through this, I have to warn you that the details of the courses are a little fuzzy. We did not have a printed menu for the degustation, and course by course, the description quality varied.  One thing that seems common to New Zealand restaurants is the absence of (for want of a better term) a professional waitstaff-class.  The waiters, even at high end places, are generally casuals, doing the job for a while while learning to be something else.  For high end food to be presented correctly, you need people for whom being waitstaff is itself the goal.  For that to happen, you need to pay your waitstaff more than they get in NZ.  So while the service was attentive and enthusiastic, it lacked... polish.  This manifested in an often incomplete description of what was actually on our plates at any given time.

7 course degustation, plus an amuse-bouche to begin.

The amuse-bouche: Oyster shooters, with rock sugar, coriander, sake, soy, ginger...  Subtle flavouring, with the taste of the oyster coming through strongly at the back end.  One of the few times I have not felt like I would have rather had the oyster alone.  Good.

1.  Seared yellowfin tuna. Chili jam, dehydrated citrus, calamari & coconut-based salad.  Flavours meshed well; there was something sub-continental in the crusting on the tuna, which blended with the coconut flavour of the salad excellently.

2.  Gurnard, kahawai ball, kumara.  Melting gurnard, strongly flavoured kahawai topping, a cauliflower puree onto which the kumara was placed. Coriander pesto.

3.  Rabbit, scallop, black pudding. The rabbit was a rolled leg, crispy skin, well spiced.  Black pudding was warm and rich, and brilliantly offset the scallops.  I understand, visually, only giving us that white of the scallop, but I always feel a little sad when I don't get to eat it all.  Pea puree offset both components nicely, and the smear thereof was enough to serve for the whole dish.

4.  Duck, lentils du puy.  Some sort of tasty shredded duck meat, wrapped in a wonton wrapper and deep fried.  Indian style spicing on the duck meat/wrapper.  Celeriac puree, I believe, and lentils du puy, which were perhaps ever so slightly grainier than they should have been. Minor concern.

5.  Polenta, beef fillet.  The polenta was crisped nicely, firm and tasty.  A 63 degree egg, cooked for 90 minutes, on top of that.  Field mushrooms and a delicious slice of rare fillet rounded off the course.

6.  Local Cheeses.  'Over the moon' cheeses. Blue, soft (triple cream brie) and cheddar.  The triple cream brie in particular was great.  Pear and apple, drizzled in honey, and both crispbread and toasts.

7.  Rhubarb mess, tamarillo sorbet, burnt honey and yoghurt pannacotta, floss.  Not too sweet, the tamarillo sorbet in particular was a wonderful touch.

I was completely convinced by both the food and the chosen wine matches.  This degustation offers good value, $145/head with matched wines, $90 without.  It was well timed, not pushy, and the venue was comfortable.

20 Alma St, Hamilton Central
(07) 834 2921

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

River Kitchen (2)

Back to the River Kitchen, because it was good last time.  This time, I brought M with me.  The food was better than last time, even. I think I made a nicer choice. I always like the idea of eggs benedict more than I like eggs benedict. Oh well.

This time I had beans and black pudding.  That worked out tremendously.

Mel had salmon and peas on potato, topped with an egg.  This too worked out brilliantly.

It is still good. Their website is still woeful.
07 839 2906

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Einstök: Icelandic Toasted Porter

How often do you see beer from Iceland?  Around here, I have seen it... once, that I can recall.  That time led me to this intriguingly named Toasted Porter.

Classy label

Nice and dark.

It does taste toasty, and it hits your standard porter notes, but I found the flavour a little too light.  It didn't linger on the palate like I want a porter to, and I was tempted to quaff it rather than drinking slowly.  Now, that isn't always a bad thing, and I would be happy to drink a few of these, but when I have a porter, I often want to sit and savour it, and soak in the flavour.  That kind of approach wouldn't be right for this beer, I don't think.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Epic: Double Stout

Epic's 2012 Double Stout doesn't appear to exist on their website, which is a little disappointing because I want to see what they say about it.  I felt it was (typically of Epic) well loaded with hops.  Not too traditional a stout flavour. But you could get the more standard coffee/chocolate richness coming through despite the hops.  Head was a rich dark brown, and the beer smelled incredible.  I am a sucker for a good tagline, and 'Don't be Afraid of the Dark' sold me on this right from the start.


If you want a traditional stout, maybe buy something else.  If you want a beer that tastes like Epic beer, but darker... well.  Stout it is.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Harviestoun: Old Engine Oil

Not the most appealing of names, I have to admit.  But the beer makes up for that by being very good.  It is hoppier than I would have expected, and very smooth, rich and chocolatey.  Has a good thick mouth-feel, which goes some way to explaining the name.  Nice and dark, to boot. They don't have the most link friendly website, but what are you going to do?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Renaissance: MPA

'You liked the Hop Zombie? This is like that but perhaps bigger.'  This got my hopes up, but I don't think the MPA quite lives up to that billing.  It was missing something by comparison to (at least this year's version of) the Hop Zombie.  Not to say it was bad.  It was quite the hoppy treat.  They use Rakau hops, which is NZ local, and it produces a distinct flavour.  Maybe I am just used to US style IIPAs, and that was what felt a little off?  The solution, clearly, is to have another try.  I'm happy to do so.

An explosion of hops... sounds about right.

Nice redness coming through.

Renaissance notes on the MPA here

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dogfish Head: 'Aprihop'

The guy at the Hamilton Wine Company tells me that, while Dogfish Head's Festina Peche has been selling well, people seem wary of the Aprihop.  That is enough to get me to try it, and I don't regret it.  Sure, it is kind of fruity.  There is no chance of not noticing that apricots were involved in this beer.  But it isn't sweet or sickly.  The flavours complement the hops (of which there are a lot. 50 IBUs, according to the Dogfish Head site).  It finishes cleanly, and has a nice after-taste.  I hope we can still get this as our summer arrives, but it is a seasonal release, so I wouldn't be surprised if it disappears from shelves as the US moves into fall/winter.

Oh yes it is.

Nice colour!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The River Kitchen

My brother was passing through town, so we hit up The River Kitchen for brunch.  Bright and early, so it was easy to waltz in off the street for a seat inside. (It filled up completely while we waited for coffee, however.  And the coffee was promptly delivered)

Coffee is good; well made and nicely decorated.

O gets baked eggs.  Served with nicely crisped bread, it is a generous serving, and he reports that is is good.

I go for eggs benedict with bacon.  The eggs are well cooked, the hollandaise is just about perfect. The bacon is perhaps not the best, but it isn't bad.

Service was efficient and the place is nice.  Its a bit cold for the outside seating, and you will be outside if you get there late (we arrived at about half past 8, Saturday morning). There were a good range of things on the menu, and not just your normal breakfast fare (although, we did go for pretty standard options).  I would happily come back.  It might be a while, just because I still have so many places I haven't been to once, but hey.

Also, their website is woeful:
07 839 2906

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Home Cooking!

This is broccoli slaw.  Apparently it is a thing.  It tastes pretty nice.  Recipe is a very basic (read: minor - basically fiddling with ratios in the dressing, and pureeing the onion there) adaptation of an old (2009!) one from Smitten Kitchen.

2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 a red onion, finely sliced

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 red onion, puréed

Slice the broccoli finely.  It can be done by hand, but you could also machine it if lazy.  Toss it with onion/cranberries/ (1/2 of the) almonds.

Combine dressing ingredients (whisk, shake, whatever).  Grind salt/pepper into the dressing to taste.  Pour over broccoli. Top with remaindered almonds.  Enjoy.

We had it with a mushroom and venison stew, and crispy roasted agria potatoes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mavis & Co (Redux)

A quick lunch at Mavis & Co with M.  Counter food only, which was a little bit disappointing, but tasty savoury pastry will soon cheer one up.  I had a steak and cheese pie (such a kiwi, right?), while M had a sausage roll.  Both were served with a nice beetroot relish.

Unsurprisingly, Mavis & Co delivered.  Nice meat, great pastry, well cooked, well presented.  One day I will get here with camera for a more detailed review. I'm thinking breakfast might be a plan. Well, brunch.

Website is here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Momento Espresso

There are a few of these places around.  I like coffee shops which stay open late at night.  There is nothing worse than searching for a cafe that is open after 4pm.  Happily, the University and Victoria St versions of Momento are pleased to give me coffee later than that.  The Victoria St one will even feed you dinner and give you (local, tap or bottled) beer.  Good stuff.

Their coffee is good, but not great.  Their locations are super convenient.  Their service is nice.  Case in point. M and I had coffees and a slice of the carrot cake (pictured below) to share.  They cut the piece in half and brought it out on separate plates for us.  Very kind, easy for them to do (not much more work than the standard tactic of grabbing a second fork), and produces a good impression. This was at the University of Waikato version of the cafe.

The cake was clearly worth it.  Nice and moist, well spiced, good flavour on the icing.

 Caramel slice, from the Victoria St version. Nice biscuit crumb topping.  Good and rich.

Website is here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


One of the things I missed while in Australia was the craft beer scene in New Zealand.  Australia is catching up a bit now, but they are years behind NZ in the quality and variety of craft beers and small brewers.  In NZ, Emerson's is a leading name in delicious, delicious beer.  Some of them I have had since getting back are...

This is a special one, small batches, adventurous style.  The 2012 JP is everything the label above says it is, with the bonus of being tremendous.

 A simpler beer, this.  Basic porter, nice flavours, refreshing and dark. (Yes, I am calling a porter refreshing)

It hasn't really been the weather for the Weissbier, but I like the style too much to pass it up when I see one. Too often the southern hemisphere variations on weissbier miss the esters, or do not emphasise them enough.  Emerson's do not make that mistake.