Trust the Chef
Written by Excuse Me Waiter
The words 'Trust me, I’m a …' can seem like a tricky proposition at first blush, requiring you to entrust yourself to someone who may or may not know what they are doing. In the culinary world, omakase menus are a style of dining originating from Japan where diners 'trust the chef' by being served a selection of dishes handpicked by the chef.
We decided to give a few of these 'trust the chef' style menus in Chatswood a try, handing ourselves over to the kitchens to experience each restaurant’s signature dishes.
G05/88 Archer Street, Chatswood NSW 2067
Senpai Ramen is the latest restaurant from high profile Japanese chef Chase Kojima, serving up an unconventional ramen omakase-style menu at dinnertime for a set menu price of $75 with optional add-ons. The pocket-sized restaurant is tucked away in a laneway near Chatswood Library and seats only 20 diners who enjoy their meal under neon lights.
The set menu features a selection of 5 courses of small bites which will vary depending on the chef’s selection and the season, before culminating in a piping hot bowl of your chosen ramen.
The first course on our visit was Senpai Style Sashimi featuring a trio of tuna with homemade wasabi, snapper with white soy and salmon with green chilli pepper sauce. Our pick of the trio was the super fresh snapper which paired nicely with the white soy, sesame and seaweed flakes.
A silky smooth Chawanmushi egg custard with spanner crab and pops of ikura salmon roe was served for the second course. It was one of the best we’ve ever had, thanks to the burnt butter and dashi to give the custard extra umami notes in every spoonful.
The third course featured a wafer thin slice of Kagoshima A5 Wagyu seared and served as a nigiri sushi with a sukiyaki sauce, with the buttery beef melting in our mouths in a bite that disappeared all too quickly.
The fourth course was a Stuffed Chicken Wing jazzed up with a tasty prawn puree filling, with the crispy chicken drizzled in a yuzu kosho sauce for a zesty citrus hit.
The last of the small bites courses on the set menu was a delicious Saikyo Miso Marinated Glacier 51 Toothfish served as a san choy bao with a butter lettuce cup. This luxe morsel hit all the right notes with the depth of flavour from the classic Japanese marinade infused nicely into the firm white flesh of the toothfish.
Before we got to the ramen part of the night, we decided to go for a bonus round of small bites by asking for the optional add-on 'Kaisen Kobachi' which was $26 for all three in the set and can be shared between two people. The seafood set was delicately plated up with a special egg sauce for drizzling on top and featured raw tuna taku paired with a sticky Japanese mountain yam (yamaimo), a delicious seared salmon belly with ikura and also seared scallops with spicy aioli, which turned out to be our favourite of the set.
The six rounds of small bites had primed our appetites for the star dish of the night – our choice of ramen from their menu of five ramens. It was difficult to choose as each option sounded very appetising, but we finally settled on the Tonkotsu Ramen (paired with an optional slow cooked baby abalone and abalone liver sauce for $18) and the Chili Miso Butter Ramen. We were impressed by both of the ramens which shone in their own different ways.
The Tonkotsu Ramen was a classic with the 12 hour paitan pork broth achieving the perfect gelatinous consistency that was still drinkable. The broth elevated by the hint of black garlic oil and chives, as well as our decadent abalone topping that provided a chewy counterpoint to the pork cheeks that comes as the base protein.
The Chili Miso Butter Ramen used a chintan chicken broth base and amped it up with the strong hit of chili miso butter which paired wonderfully with the grilled Hokkaido scallops and corn for a big bowl of umami goodness.
We rounded out the night with their dessert which featured a mixed berry compote covered with a cloud of mascarpone and tropical ice cream, topped off with fine slivers of fresh plum and sprinkled with a ramen crumble for fun savoury touch.
Sashami | Chawanmushi
Wagyu | Tori
Glacier 51 Toothfish | Kaisen Kobachi Set of 3
Tonkotsu Ramen | Chili Miso Butter Ramen
Level 1, The Concourse, Chatswood NSW 2067
Perched above the streets of Chatswood atop the Concourse, Mama Mulan serves up modern Chinese cuisine in sleek surrounds. There are two banquet menus on offer at Mama Mulan for those who prefer to trust the chef to sample the restaurant’s greatest hits, priced at $59 and $79 a head.
The $59 banquet menu is fantastic value and comes out quickly from the kitchen with plenty of variety and quality ingredients thrown into the mix so that diners are well catered for by the feast. The entrees consist of a refreshing Cucumber and Pear Salad, followed by three bamboo steamers featuring a trio of pitch perfect dim sum: the signature Pork Xiao Long Bao with delicately thin skin and delicious soup inside the dumplings, the juicy Pork and Prawn Shumai and plump prawns encased in the Mulan Hargau dumplings.
The generously sized mains included the punchy Kung Pao Chicken, tender cubes of Wok-fried Wagyu Beef with Mushroom and Teriyaki Sauce and an addictive Wok-fried Sweet & Sour Pork paired with an intriguing combination of rockmelon and dragonfruit rather than the stock standard pineapple usually seen with this dish.
Our mains were paired with an umami-rich Pickled Olive, Truffle and Garlic Shoot Fried Rice and a delicious Wok-fried Green Beans with Pork Mince and Chilli which served as the greens for the meal.
Cucumber and Pear Salad | Pork Xiao Long Bao
Pork and Prawn Shumai | Mulan Hargau
Kung Pao Chicken | Wok-fried Wagyu Beef with Mushroom and Teriyaki Sauce
Wok-fried Sweet & Sour Pork with Rockmelon and Dragonfruit | Pickled Olive, Truffle and Garlic Shoot Fried Rice
Wok-fried Green Beans with Pork Mince and Chilli | Mango Pomelo Sago
380 Victoria Ave, Chatswood NSW 2067
Korean barbecue is not a place you would conventionally expect to find the words 'chef omakase' but the wagyu barbecue sets on offer at The Bulgogi are presented in this style, with a selection of prime cuts of wagyu beef curated for different appetites.
As we prefer marinated meats at Korean barbecue for extra flavour, we dined on the Wagyu Marinated Set which featured 400 grams of The Bulgogi’s 1 Minute Wagyu Bulgogi, Gal-bi and Marinated Wagyu.
The thinly sliced Wagyu Bulgogi lived up to its 1 minute name and was ready in a flash on the grill. It was full of flavour thanks to the signature The Bulgogi sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic.
We also enjoyed the tender Marinated Wagyu slices which didn’t even need to be dipped in the sauce or seasoning salt provided on the side as they were already so flavourful. The Gal-bi beef short ribs were also delicious after the meat was unfurled and cut up from the charcoal grill into juicy pieces to share.
While the meal comes with four different types of traditional Korean side dishes (banchan), including our favourite marinated fish cake and kimchi of course, we couldn’t resist trying the interesting Cheese Volcano Fried Rice for the carb factor for the meal. It came to the table bubbling away in a cast iron plate with glorious melted cheese all over the fried rice that was elevated with pops of flying fish roe.
Wagyu Marinated Set, $98
Korean Side Dishes | Cheese Volcano Fried Rice, $28