Red Pepper (4a Lyons St Strathfield) inside the Strathfield Sports Club has ridiculously fantastic fried chicken!
Don’t a judge a book by its cover they say. Likewise don’t judge a restaurant by where it’s located! I had a mad craving for fried chicken and normally we would head to Beschico in Epping for our fix but I wanted to try somewhere new and word on the street was that Red Pepper (4a Lyons St Strathfield) inside the Strathfield Sports Club was a pretty tops place.
So make your way past all the tennis courts and into the sports club, sign in to be a temporary member and walk to the back where theres a bar and beside it, Red Pepper! Not sure what the go is for dinner but when we arrived for lunch we ordered and paid at the counter, got given a table number and they deliver your food and cutlery to you. There’s 3 menus available at Red Pepper- Western, Korean and Fried Chicken. I think you only get the banchan side dishes depending on how much you order and from which menu, our first visit we didn’t get any but our second visit we did.
Mmm melty molten cheese! Originally I was going to order a normal Seafood Pancake ($15) but the waiter hesitated so I asked if he thought the Kimchi Pancake with Mozzarella Cheese ($14) was any better and he nodded vigorously and said he hated the seafood pancake (!!). Hate is such a strong word lol
Haha upskirt shot! I don’t know what I was expecting but that there is a pool of chilli oil and it was hella spicy! The pancake arrived piping hot so the mozza was nice and stretchy with each kimchi packed slice though the cheese did congeal once it cooled. I think I was expecting more of a batter holding everything together but it was basically a whole lotta kimchi flattened into a circle. It was tasty though!
The Original Fried Chicken ($16/half chicken) is pretty bang on with my idea of awesome fried chicken- golden, nubbly batter that shattered with each bite and juicy flesh with each piece. The batter coating was a bit thick but I loved that it wasn’t at all oily. Finger licking tastiness!
Noods wanted the Spicy Chilli Chicken ($18/half chicken) because he likes foods covered in sauce. It was super spicy like oh god it burrrrrns spicy and had us in tears but we somehow managed to finish it.
The side dish of pickled cabbage and radish helped with the burning.
A bucket of beers also helped 😛
Our second visit happened to be the very next day because one can never have too much fried chicken. Noods however wasn’t too keen on having fried chicken yet again (I know, there’s something wrong with him hey?) so we ordered the Galbi-Jjim ($17.50). The ridiculously tender beef short ribs were cooked in soy sauce with a bit of vegetables and a muddle of Jap Chae potato noodles thrown in for good measure. There was also a complimentary serving of fluffy rice which I appreciated to soak up the meat juices.
We scored some tasty banchan side dishes of spicy bean sprouts, fish cake slices, kimchi and oddly my fave was a pasta salad that was strangely addictive.
And the reason for my return: Crispy Fried Chicken with Spring Onion and Wasabi Sauce ($18/half chicken). HOT DAYUM! This blew my socks off! Normally I’m not a huge fan of wasabi and can only tolerate incredible small amounts on my sushi so I was scared the wasabi sauce would be too intense but surprisingly I loved it! The wasabi was balanced with the soy and just set my tastebuds a-tingle with happiness. Seriously you guys this fried chicken is the bomb. The sauce was just a light drizzle so the batter was still just as crispy as the Original and alternating bites with the spring onion made me think I was being healthy eating my greens 😛
We ended up ordering another lot of the Galbi Jjim and more fried chicken to take home for dinner because well, cooking is not my forte 😛 Love that they also packed us banchan!
There’s something so guiltily satisfying about watching other people exercise while eating amazing food heh heh So yeah I’m really glad that I finally made it out to Strathfield to try the fried chicken at Red Pepper! It was only a 20min drive from Parra and there’s heaps of street parking and it’s super close to the station so woohoo for fried chicken so close by!
Japan, Part 2: Muteppou Ramen, Shibuya Crossing, Harajuku, The Lockup and Uobei Sushi
So Day 2 was a Sunday which meant the Tsukiji Fish Markets were closed so instead we chose to visit the famous tonkotsu ramen shop, Muteppou (4-5-1 Ekoda, Nakano). We took the train via the Seibu Shinjuku line and then it’s about an 8 minute walk from the station. Gumshara’s Mori Higashida did an apprenticeship at the Muteppou branch in Kyoto before setting up shop in Sydney and since Noods worships at the temple of Gumshara he made sure to push it up our must eat list in Japan.
We’d arrived a bit after 11am and the place was already full but luckily the infamous queue hadn’t yet started.
Immediately to the left of the entrance is the order machine buuuut there weren’t any pictures. Selecting the chashu tonkotsu ramen was fine but then when we sat down and gave the waiter our ticket he sprouted off a whole lotta questions in Japanese which I wasn’t prepared for and while they tried their hardest to explain, in the end I said omakase which basically means ‘I’ll leave it up to you’ and they smiled and wandered off. Google tells me they were trying to ask what level of hardness for the noodles, the richness of the broth and the amount of spring onions we wanted.
Oh helloooo gorgeous 😛 The submerged slices of pork are fattylicious and so meltingly tender that I have to use a spoon as they disintegrated when I picked up a piece with my chopsticks. Disintegrated and became one again with the soup!!
Zomg look at that perfect golden egg yolk! The noodles are thick and have a firm bite to them and if you somehow manage to finish your noodles and get Kaedama (extra noodles), the noodles are thin like Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen.
soup gravy basically hugs each strand of noodle. And I say gravy because that’s how thick it is. Like, 10 times thicker (and richer) than Gumshara if you can imagine that! But it was mind blowingly awesome, ridiculously rich and just so fricken amazing that I barely have enough superlatives for how tasty it was. It’s definitely not an every day meal!
Kept watching this dude stirring all the pork bones non stop! Apparently Muteppou uses more than 300 kilograms of meaty pork bones for the broth each day which is pretty crazy. The waiters kept checking on us gaijins but we pointed at a sign near us that had Gumshara Sydney on it and said we knew Mori-san and they immediately told the chefs in the kitchen who all smiled and bowed. When we got up to leave the waiters followed us outside and thanked us for coming which I thought was super sweet. I definitely want to check out the first Muteppou store in Osaka!
After lunch we caught the train to Harajuku and this, my friends, is my nightmare. I have claustrophobia issues and had been bracing myself for the inevitable people crush. On the street I was fine- while there were a lot of people walking around they somehow had the ability to brush past and not touch anyone and if anyone did accidentally bump someone they would be incredibly apologetic. Or they would be foreigners who didn’t give a damn. Luckily this ride was the only time it was packed and even then it wasn’t as sardine packed as the trains we saw at rush hour during the week. Also lol Hiro Nakamura flashback! YATTA!
Arrived at Harajuku Station (via the Yamanote Line) and crossed to the narrow, pedestrian only side of Takeshita Street where I fell in love with a cheeseburger skirt and insisted on wearing it immediately much to Noods’ chagrin. There were a couple of people dressed up in cosplay but maybe we were there too early for the fashionable kids to be awake 😛
Weekends are the busiest times in Harajuku so be prepared to inch your way along the stream of people until you escape into one of the many wacky shops selling jewellery, bags, or clothing for humans and even dogs!
A couple of hours trawling all the shops made me work up an appetite! There were a couple of crepe stores that I kept eyeing and even though the queues looked long they moved pretty fast. I picked Angels Heart partly because it said it was the oldest crepe shop in Harajuku buuut also because it was pink and I always get suckered in when I look at plastic food displays.
I chose the Strawberry Strawberry Crepe (490yen/$5.15) which had super sweet strawberries, strawberry ice cream and whipped cream all rolled up in a freshly made crepe. Simple, but so damn tasty.
Noods chose the Hot Honey Apple Cream Cheese Crepe (420yen/$4.40) and although it doesn’t look like much it was just like eating an apple pie! There wasn’t much cream cheese which he was fine with but cinnamon + hot apples = warm hugs and happiness.
Another insanely popular shop was Calbee which fries up potato chips and comes complete with toppings of cheese, sour cream, flavoured salts or chocolate sauce. There’s a wall of pre packaged snacks like ROYCE chocolate covered chips but the queue that snakes around the shop and out the door is all for the hot stuff. We waited maybe 15mins? Any longer and Noods would’ve walked out lol
Mmm fry me up baby! Once you’ve ordered and paid, take your tray around the corner and walk up the stairs where there’s tables to stand and eat and get a birds eye view of the street.
I’ve always been a dip a fry into ice cream kinda gal so I knew I had to get the ruffle cut (choice between ruffle and thin cut) ROYCE chocolate covered potato chips with ice cream (410yen/$4.30) which was pretty delish. Salty sweet combos are always a winner with me!
We also ordered the Maple Syrup and Cream Cheese thinly cut potato chips (310yen/$3.20) because I heart all things maple syrup. The cream cheese was a little weird, I think I would have preferred to have ice cream instead.
Aaand then I randomly pointed at the Poteriko (a deep-fried version of Calbee’s popular Jagariko potato stick snacks), which were basically just deep fried potato sticks with I think a salad seasoning? Not sure what salad seasoning is supposed to taste like but luckily it didn’t taste like real salad…
We round the corner and I spy a soft serve ice cream which automatically acts as a homing beacon that I can’t help but follow.
I’m not used to the intensity of the matcha flavour here compared to the mildness in Aus so ordered half green tea and vanilla soft serve in a chocolate waffle cone which was creamy and perfect. Even though it was fricken freezing I will eat ice cream in any weather. Oh also side note: the Japanese call soft serve ice cream soft cream.
We spotted this tiny Yakult delivery cart on the street! Wish I could get Yakult home delivered!
Wandered back up to Shinjuku and somehow got lured into Komatsuan on the 13th floor food court of Takashimaya. The only table available was sitting on the traditional tatami mat which we accepted because originally we had thought we were only going to share a quick bite to eat.
But the prices were decent so we ended up getting a meal each heh. My set (2900yen/$30.50) came with buckwheat soba, grilled beef with miso and a side dish of greens. It was crazy warm inside the restaurant so dipping the soba into the cool broth was pretty refreshing and the beef was melt in the mouth tender.
Noods’ set (3050yen/$32.10) was more substantial with the same soba and dipping sauce and a giant salad but also a bento box filled with sushi rice and slices of beef. Loved the complimentary green tea but also couldn’t help ordering a round of Yebisu beer because, thirsty.
One thing that made us feel absolutely ridiculous was that we couldn’t figure out how to open some doors, you’d assume that a door would be either the push/pull type or the automatic sliding door yeah? So some places have a door with this silver strip that you have to push before the door slides open!
Somehow a whole bunch of Sydney food bloggers happened to be in Tokyo at the same time with no planning whatsoever so with some last minute googling on where would be a good place for a large group we settled on the Lockup (Shibuya Grand Tokyo Bldg, B2F, 33-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya) a jail themed restaurant. It is dark. Like, my night vision is pretty awesome but I kept bumping into walls and tripping so be prepared when you suddenly find yourself face to face with creepy skeletons or people being electrocuted lol the leader of your group (hoho hai Richard!) is first handcuffed and then led to your cell.
There’s an all you can drink package but because we were a bit late to our booked session we wouldn’t have made full use of this because they do take a while to make your drinks. The alcohol content in the cocktails are pretty poor but hey! Creepy looking drinks ftw! The food and drinks veer into more of a crazy scientist theme but well, you don’t go there for the food 😛
Mmm giant beaker of beeeeer! Each session there’s ‘entertainment’ where the restaurant goes completely dark and monsters run around to terrorise each cell so be careful if you’re near a window or door because some monsters are sneaky and will scare the beejesus outta you!
So the Charcoal Chicken looked super burnt but the colour came from the squid ink and tasted pretty good for karaage!
I was perhaps a little too excited at the 1kg of fries with flavoured salts but cmon there was a cola flavour! And corn potage! And bacon! And curry! And chocolate! Suckers for novelty we are!
We’d ordered other foods at the Lockup but they were meh so after saying goodbye to everyone Jacq and I set off to find Uobei (2-29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya), a super fast sushi train that shoots out your plate of sushi to where you are sitting! Love that it’s diy green tea too, each seat had a hot water tap and a container of matcha powder mmm free anti oxidants.
Select what you want on the touch screen and await your order
WHOOOOOSH!!! When your order arrives take your food and hit the yellow flashing button to return your train. I may have had a blond moment and hit the button before taking my food lol but not to worry it’ll come back!
Oh how I love sushi in Japan, there’s always the perfect rice to fish ratio!
And yes the toilets in Japan are all kinds of fascinating, what with all their buttons and gadgets that does just about everything under the sun. All toilets have the usual bidet option to wash your butt but hey shy about sounds? There’s a button that plays music or even mimics the sound of a flush! Cold? There’s a seat warmer button! And sensors that will automatically flush! And every single bathroom we went to was freakishly clean even the ones in the subway! Which made visiting Malaysian bathrooms later on in the trip so disgusting
Taxis are exxy, people usually only take them after 1am when the trains stop but if you do catch one just fyi the doors open out automatically so be careful lol
The famed Shibuya Crossing! The line at Starbucks was too long and I’m not a fan of their ‘coffee’ so we crossed the street into the Shibuya Mark City building and up to the 2nd floor which overlooks the crossing.
So many humans! Later we partook in the crossing but oddly I didn’t find it overwhelming to cross as like I said previously, the Japanese have the ability to slide right past without touching you.
And last pic from diff window! See you next week for part 3 on Tsukiji Markets 😀
I’m baaaaack! Oh you didn’t know I left? You should totes follow me on Instagram! Anywhos, a coupla weeks ago the boy and I left Oz for Japan and we had the best time. Like seriously, we wanted to go back as soon as we had left! It started when we checked in at JAL and got upgraded from cattle class economy to premium with glorious seats that reclined to an almost complete flatness and made the next 10 hours flight time fly by.
But then how to get from the airport to our hotel? We were staying at Hotel Sunroute Higashi-Shinjuku (7-27-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo) which was pretty good, decent price per night with free wifi, super close to a station, clean rooms and staff who spoke perfect english. The only negative was that unfortunately the hotel was not part of the Airport Limousine Bus route so we had to navigate the trains but luckily we had picked up a wifi router (we used JCR $180 for 300MB/day) so Google Maps was a massive help. The thing to remember is that Japan has 3 wacky train lines- the subway, the tram/monorail and the normal trains so if you ever need to switch lines to get somewhere and can’t find the platform it’s prolly cos you gotta go outside and enter another station. Anyways! We took the Narita Express, cost about $30 and took about an hour to get to Shinjuku.
We dropped our bags off at our hotel and even though I was super zombified after the flight, Noods wanted to go exploring immediately so we walked into the nearest ramen shop.
Zomg what is this madness?! Noods taking photos of his food??? According to Noods the ramen was tasty with a flavourful broth and firm noodles but he wasn’t fond of the amount of shallots piled mile high lol
My hunger awakened when we walked by Kizuna Sushi (Building B1, 1F, 1-18-8, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo). We’d spied a large group milling around the entrance and originally we were stopping just for a drink but I was glad we did in the end because woo! Fatty tuna time (880yen/$9)! Toro, Chu-Toro and my absolute fav: the O-Toro! I’ve always hated tuna in Aus because there was something about the texture that creeped me out but the tuna in Japan? SWOON. Melt in the mouth, tender and such clean flavours!
The Sushi Mix (2480yen/$26) gave us a pretty good selection, Noods loved the scallop sushi in particular while I dove headfirst into the uni (sea urchin) sushi. The miso soup was complimentary which we appreciated because it was so damn cold and we hadn’t packed any winter thermals for the trip 🙁
The next day we set off to hit all the (depachika) department stores, in particular the famed food halls on the basement level. On the way to Takashimaya, we passed this gyoza store and vowed to return but sadly forgot all about it and ended up not eating any gyozas on the entire trip!
The food levels are amazing. Sure, there’s a crapload of packaging but the attention to detail of each and every product is just mind blowing! The Japanese cherish seasonal local produce and it’s a pretty important role in their culture. When we enter on the lower level (B2) where the fresh produce are sold, we literally just stopped dead in our tracks and stared at how perfect everything was. I mean, look at them strawberries! Not jumbled haphazardly into a carton but placed super carefully and everything!
Even the meat is perfect!
I’ve never seen fresh seafood so meticulously arranged!
I was obsessed with the mini watermelons I kept seeing everywhere, even on the street at fruit kiosks! They weren’t cheap either, averaging at 4000yen/$42 each o_0
And when we saw these melons we immediately backed away at their price- 11000yen/$115 each!!!
Packaged sushi all ready for an easy takeaway meal.
Crazy sandwiches aplenty with flavours like rum & raisin with whipped cream; mandarin, orange & pineapple; shrimp & egg salad.
Ridiculously tall and fluffy chiffon cakes! We got lured in with free samples of the maple chiffon and couldn’t resist buying one.
At the Isetan food hall we found Imagawayaki aka fluffy fat pancake with fillings like red bean, chocolate or vanilla custard. These babies were only 100yen/$1 each!
Mmm super generous with the fillings = happiness
And also lined up for fresh Taiyaki, a fish shaped pancake with a crispy waffle outer, fluffy innards and a filling of red bean, chocolate or vanilla custard.
So my only gripe with the food halls is that there’s nowhere to eat. Like, people buy stuff to take away but because it’s considered rude to walk around and eat at the same time we decided to do the one touristy thing we had never wanted to do: visit the cherry blossoms. We’d actually spied signs to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on our way to the department stores and it was just a 10min walk and 200yen/$2 entry to get in. So yeah. Here’s the cherry blossoms yo!
So we had our own little picnic in the garden! The green tea mochi was for Noods because he’s crazy about their texture, then there was a random koi pancake filled with mung bean, a couplea slices of the famous Castella cake with its super fine texture, a red bean Dorayaki pancake aaaand my fave, strawberry shortcake which was as light as a cloud!
Noods wanted something savoury so it was off to find ramen. No idea on the name of this ramen shop but it had a sign saying: no ramen, no life lol
About 50% of ramen shops have a ticket machine system out front. The first time we used one we had nfi how it worked and only found out after watching other ppl that you had to put your money in before making your selection. Some places have photos but others don’t so I guess be prepared for random foods?
Luckily I can recognise hiragana and katakana characters thanks to Japanese classes back in high school and I can sound out most stuff so tadah one tonkotsu ramen with tamago (egg). While the egg was a tad overcooked we loved the fatty chashu pork and it was just pretty damn awesome with the rich and umami filled broth.
We wandered around and oggled all the lights in Shinjuku and ended up at Memory Lane aka Piss Alley.
There’s rows of itty bitty restaurants that could only fit max 6 customers, serving yakitori and giant mugs of beer.
We went into a random one and ordered pork belly and chicken skin skewers.
Oh and karaage because fried chicken yo
So many lights! So bright, so vivid…
And so many pachinko parlours! The sound inside is deafening as hundreds of tiny metallic balls go a-clanking.
Everything closes pretty late in Japan which was awesome for us because we just kept getting peckish. Helloooo takoyaki balls from Gindaco!
The octopus takoyaki balls (310yen/$3.25) were piping hot and perfect for the crazy cold weather.
Aaaand then I couldn’t help stopping in at Cafe Gre (3-21-3 | Shinjuku Towa Bldg. 2.3 F, Shinjuku) for their super light strawberry chiffon cake (700yen/$7). So many eats, so little time! Stay tuned for part 2 😛
Super Easy Date and Walnut Blondies
I heart brownies but lately I’ve had this obsession with blondies. Rich, gooey but not overbearingly sweet, this is my go to for a baked treat in a pinch. And this recipe is so ridiculously easy I can bake them blindfolded! The brown sugar in these babies makes them out of this world and normally I have issues with nuts in baked goods but the crunch of the walnuts is ridiculously addictive.
A pile o happiness! My fave recipe is from Simply Recipes but I doubled the recipe and tinkered with some of the quantities for the dates and walnuts because I can never help myself when I bake 😛
225g salted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups tightly packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup walnuts
1 cup dates
Preheat oven to 170C and line a brownie pan with parchment paper, making sure the paper overhangs from the tray for easy blondie removal. And any accidental spillage.
1. Cut up the dates and walnuts into small pieces.
2. Beat together the melted butter and sugar in a bowl.
3. Beat in the egg one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
4. Add the vanilla extract, flour, baking soda, baking powder, dates and walnuts and mix until just combined.
Pour mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve.
Mmm crackly top and chewy innards! I’m defs an edge person. Are you?