Role playing at home back in the day, I was lumped with being Sandy while my brothers took the roles of Monkey and Pigsy. We’d run around the house, up onto the couch or anything that would elevate us to simulate Monkey’s flying cloud. I miss those young, innocent days.
|Go-Shu sake at Monkey Magic, Crown Street, Surry Hills|
The sake menu consists of four Japanese and one Australian brews. Requested warm to hopefully diffuse the effects of a cold, we start with the Aussie stuff, which is kind of drinkable.
|Amuse bouche - Cauliflower soup with curry|
It also says little about the ability of the kitchen, though perhaps it was just my cold-affected tastebuds that found the amuse bouche more like a bland glass of cold cream that had cauliflower and curry powder waved over it.
|Edamame with pink salt sprinkles|
Shared between four-to-five people, the bowl of discards rises quickly against the ‘kampai’ of our little sake cups.
|Soft shell crab roll|
|Chilli soy cuttlefish with mizuna, bean sprout, coriander, white onion vinaigrette|
Cuttlefish is much like squid, but the flesh is thicker and in this instance, more tender and sea-sweet too. The white onion vinaigrette is an interesting addition to flavours while the vegetables add a necessary healthy aspect to the dish.
|Chicken-prawn shu mai with fresh bamboo, water chestnut, ginerg, miso-mustard sauce |
and lychee berry
|Pan seared ocean trout with green pea ragout, Asian green and black pepper sauce|
The fillet of ocean trout has pleasingly crisp skin and is well cooked with a rare centre, but is otherwise unexciting. The black pepper sauce is particularly pungent and probably much more appropriate paired with beef while the peas have me thinking about pies.
|Slow cooked pork belly - soy braised pork belly, apple -lime puree, spicy kimchi, salad|
of pickled vegetable
The tender pork wasn’t too bad, with a rather traditional Western apple sauce contrasting with kimchi and Asian-style pickled vegetables.
|Rangers Valley sirloin with confit cherry tomato, roasted white onion and 'goma' sesame sauce|
It was served with a single ‘confit’ cherry tomato, a small wedge of white onion and more of that pepper sauce, and wouldn’t have looked too out of place at a steakhouse or even local pub.
|Salted caramel semifreddo with crunchy meringue, yuzu stewed apple|
The creamy texture of the semifreddo could not sway me from thinking it tasted exactly like caramel YoGo from childhood. The pretty meringue which supported the semifreddo slice was the highlight with an impressively crunchy shell, and pleasant with the stewed apples.
|Yuzu trifle with yuzu lady fingers, mango and raspberry|
Our group didn’t get kicked out for another group event, as we were told to expect, but the dining room wasn’t entirely full for the Saturday night anyway. Modern Japanese in Surry Hills is a tough gig with the ultra luxe, high end of Toko up the road on Crown Street, and cheap and cheerful Sushi Suma on Cleveland Street.
But perhaps there is a middle ground – indeed, perhaps there is still a bit of room in our lives for Monkey Magic, jumping on couches and being innocent again.