Wednesday, February 13, 2013

PaperPlanes Bondi: Flying high

The hundreds of colourful, individually-painted skateboards on the ceilings of contemporary Japanese restaurant, PaperPlanes Bondi are only the beginning – there’s more to be done on the site, says Phil Capaldi who co-owns the restaurant with the Barge brothers of LL Wine & Dine fame.

Skateboards and origami cranes on the ceiling at PaperPlanes Bondi,
Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach
Ten months in and PaperPlanes is flying high in Bondi Beach’s new-ish Beach House complex, wedged in between an ice cream shop and Hotel Bondi.

Such are the lofty heights of their success that they’re Bali-bound with a super-charged PaperPlanes concept involving a couple of restaurants and a beachfront club. There’s also talk of New York and other worldly, big cities – there’s no shortage of ambition with this lot.

The bar and moving specials board
Back in Bondi, diners can walk into the moodily-lit space from a sand-and-surf session on beachy Campbell Parade, or sneak in after a shopping session on store-lined Gould Street.

A young, local contingent of diners and drinkers keep the restaurant busy with a good dose of beach cool, especially in the evenings and Sunday afternoons when there’s live music involving a full size harp.

PaperPlanes menu
In for lunch, we were seated at the bar unravelling the origami-folded menu to discover fun, easy-drinking cocktails with a modern PaperPlanes touch.

Rock, Scissors, Paper cocktail (left) and Harajuku Girl cocktail (right)
The Rock, Scissors, Paper cocktail was aperitif-like with bitter Campari, Martini Rosso and almond-scented amaretto lightened with orange juice making for an interesting palate starter.

The girly, pink, martini-glassed Harajuku Girl of gin and elderflower liqueur arrived garnished unexpectedly with desiccated coconut, ramping up the sweet, shaken coconut water component and watermelon juice.

New Zealand deep sea scampi nigiri with ponzu jelly, wasabi soy glazed cucumber,
fried onion and chives
There was serious lust for almost everything on the starters menu but we managed to narrow it down to the scampi nigiri sushi. Served alongside the emptied scampi head, the cube of ponzu jelly melting atop added all the necessary flavour to the creamily fresh, raw shellfish.

PaperPlanes prawn gyoza with creamy lemon wasabi foam,
crushed wasabi peas and fresh herbs
We also sampled PaperPlanes’ excellent signature prawn gyoza dumplings, which came beautifully pan fried on a creamy wasabi and lemon foam.

Both the garnish of crushed, crunchy wasabi peas and the chewy, golden skins were highlights, while the slightly spicy foam matched particularly well with the bouncy, minced prawn filling.

Orion Draft beer
PaperPlanes has the easy-drinking Japanese Orion Draft beer on tap while a small selection of other beers are served by the bottle.

Ine Mankai sake
Also available is an interesting range of sake which Capaldi loves introducing to newcomers – I was given a tasting of some of the boutique offerings.

The red rice Ine Mankai was surprisingly sweet with cherry and pomegranate notes; and was unlike any sake I've ever sipped.

Kizan Sanban sake
The Kizan Sanban was also on the lighter, sweeter, easy-to-drink side and is definitely a good starting point for those new to sake.

My favourite of the tastings was the Mutemuka, which has an earthier, savoury flavour that I think is more traditional than the sweeter styles, while the yeasty Azemura was probably the strongest of the lot.

Sweet corn on the cob with butter and red miso sauce
Beer and sake are the perfect accompaniments to a bit of savoury eating in the form of kushiyaki skewers of grilled meats and vegetables.

The sweet cobs of corn were grilled and lightly brushed with a complementary mix of red miso sauce and butter – a little unwieldy on the well-cooked skewer but a crowd pleaser nonetheless.

Chicken thigh fillet with shallot and truffle glaze
We headed into yakitori grilled chicken territory with the chicken thigh and shallot skewer, scented with a touch of truffle oil amid the soy sauce basting.

Chicken meatball with white sesame
I adored the texture of the chicken meatball – crumbly and not entirely smooth beneath its char markings – but unfortunately it was a bit on the overly-salty side.

Crispy chicken skin with white sesame
I sensed there was a bit of cheating when it came to the crunchy, golden pieces of chicken skin, threaded on the skewer. Deep fried rather than grilled, the fried skin morsels were pure guilty pleasure.

Zucchini with butter, red miso sauce and white sesame
Lessening the guilt were zucchini and eggplant in red miso sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. While the eggplant was a little too thickly covered in the sweet sauce, the barely-cooked zucchini was perfectly firm and refreshing.

Eggplant with butter, red miso sauce and white sesame

Braised beef short ribs off bone in yakiniku sauce with pickled vegetable
In pretty good form, we opted for a single main dish to share – Capaldi highly recommends both the lamb ribs and beef short rib and we ended up happily with the latter.

I’m not sure exactly how many hours of cooking or how many spices went into the deeply-coloured beef, but I’m positive it was a lot of both. The meat was so soft and tender that it had literally fallen off the bone and was served as a boneless pile of meat that could be eaten with chopsticks.

With sweet braising sauces and the richness of the short rib, I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than pickled vegetables to go with the beef: the carrot and lotus root were sweet and just sour enough, while the radish was Japanese-style pickled salty.

Wakame and tofu salad with sesame dressing
Instead of rice we went with the wakame dressed seaweed with chilled squares of tofu as a healthy side. It was definitely a protein-packed, healthy dish with the creamy sesame sauce matching surprisingly well with the tofu.

PP Colada cocktail
Asking for an appropriate drink to go with dessert, Capaldi suggested a PP Colada - the PaperPlanes rendition of the tropical rum, pineapple and coconut cream based piña colada which was traditional and true to taste.

The black egg – coconut milk curd with macadamia oil and ristretto cocoa sauce
Dessert at PaperPlanes really broke the mould on Japanese desserts that are generally not considered much beyond green tea ice cream.

The 'black egg' wasn't what I had imagined but instead a bowl of jellied coconut milk, light and sweet, with a pooled dollop of slightly nutty and bitter cocoa sauce.

Green tea rocher layered of ricotta crust, dark chocolate ganache and hazelnut
But it was the green tea rocher that wowed us: think balls of deep fried ricotta dough rolled in fine green tea sugar.

Green tea rocher innards
Inside was hot melting dark chocolate ganache with a whole roasted hazelnut, Ferrero Rocher style and completely lovable. These were clever and fun, summing up the entire experience at PaperPlanes.

PaperPlanes ceiling
Clever, modern Japanese dishes in a fun, colourful setting where it's just as much about the food and drinks selection as the vibe and music. PaperPlanes is flying high in Bondi, direct to Bali mid-year.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of PaperPlanes Bondi, with thanks to Sweaty Betty PR.

PaperPlanes on Urbanspoon

11 comments:

Missy Piggy said...

Ooooh, I've heard of this place but didn't realise it's Japanese, though with the name perhaps it should've been obvious (der Piggy)! So much food on sticks - love it. Wish I lived closer.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this place (but I love LL a bit more).
And those Barge brothers are hot! x

(I can't sign in to comment, but didn't want to be anon!)
Jane

Gourmet Getaways said...

Oh I love this type of Japanese food, so authentic and tasty, I will be visiting! Yum!

The green tea balls were a complete surprise :)

joey@FoodiePop said...

I wish we had tried the green tea rochers last time!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

This is such a cute place. We ordered different things when we went there but the desserts were the same. We loved them!

chocolatesuze said...

CRISPY CHICKEN SKIN YEEESSSSSSSS

Sherrie Huang said...

A GREEN TEA FERRERO ROCHER!! Oh my that looks amazing. Give me a whole plate of that!

Tina said...

Hi Miss Piggy - The name isn't obviously Japanese at all, so you're forgiven :) All good when it's food on sticks!

Hi Jane - I haven't met all the Barge brothers yet, so I'll take your word for it ;)

Hi Gourmet Getaways - The green tea rocher were totally and awesomely surprising :D

Hi joey - There's always next time...

Hi Lorraine - There are so many dishes on the starters list I still want to try.

Hi suze - Imagine just a huge plate of chicken skin and beer. Good times.

Hi Sherrie - There's plenty in a single serve! ;)

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

Paper Planes is now on my 'to eat' list. Gyoza with foam is something I haven't seen before. All the dishes look great and I am a sake lover.

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

We have a bottle of Kizan Sanban coz the husband is a lover of sweeter wines and spirits.

I, on the other hand, have my eyes totally on those matcha rochers!

Tina said...

Hi Sara - Haha! Pimped up gyoza...!

Hi Rita - You have a 1.8L bottle?! Oh hello...!

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