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