Hungry Hinch

Kuki is Cool

‘good smells and steam’. Photo Courtesy of: Natwick

 IN SYDNEY, RECENTLY, I learned a new expression: 'Erskineville cool'.

 We were sitting in a funky Japanese restaurant. Not only Japanese but 'Japanese tapas' how cool and eclectic is that?

 I hadn't been in Erskineville in about 50 years -- since a young police rounds reporter headed out there to answer a police radio call to a drunk bar brawl or a 'domestic'.

 Boy, has this place changed. As we headed to the Kuki Tanuki noshery on Erskineville Road on the fringe of Newtown, we passed trannies, gay couples, Uni students and what, in a previous life, I'd call yuppies.

 The place showed promise from the minute we walked in and were seated on a comfortable old couch while they checked to make sure our table was clean. The kitchen behind the bar was full of noise and good smells and steam.

 They happily opened my bottle of non- alcoholic Edenvale wine and the menus came pronto. So did the food. It wasn't really tapas ... just lots of good Japanese entrees served communally.

 Pre-ordering, we were offered those thirst-inducing scrumptious salty soy beans in the pod. I always get trapped devouring too many of those appetite- wreckers at Nobu.

 We started with Agedashi Tofu  -- lightly  fried tofu in a  warm tentsuyu broth with dried seaweed. The broth, also used as a tempura dipping sauce, is usually made with dashi, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and sometimes sake. 

 There were four of us dining and we followed that with a dozen pork gyoza. One of my Sunday lunch favourites at Riva in Melbourne.

 Next, came a large serving of sashimi. Twelve generous slices of raw fish including tuna and salmon. Good value at $25.

Pieces of flame-grilled
salmon with avocado,

Then the sushi. A plate of spider rolls with soft shell crab, cucumber, spicy miso,  to give it a tang, and some pastry chips to give it some crunch.

The next offering was a sushi offering I’d never heard of: A ‘Tasmanian roll –Aburi style’. They were a great hit.  Pieces of flame-grilled salmon with avocado, cucumber, mayonnaise  and sweet soy. They were only $16 a plate so we went back for a second round of them and the sashimi.

 Bay of Stones shiraz  or chardonnay was only $8 a glass (only $5 early in the week) and the bill included  seven glasses between the three drinkers. Even with that and fifty bucks worth of sashimi the bill still came in at a shade under  $50 a head.

 And always a good sign:  Despite the funkiness and touches of  bohemia,  the toilets were modern and sparklingly fresh and clean. Makes you think well of the kitchen.

On a Friday night, after a big week, Kuki Tanuki, was a jewel. Or, as one of my Sydney guests described it: Erskineville cool.
- - -

And then came a reminder of  my 10-day, 180-kilometre Jail 2 Justice walk. After the 7.30 a.m. to 9.30a.m. morning ten kms, the team would adjourn for breakfast.

 I ate caramel slices from
Beaufort to Ballarat.

The others would have bacon and eggs and Eggs Benedict. I’d already had my regular dill pickle and cheese brekky, pre-walk, so I wasn’t that hungry.

 But every morning I felt an urgent need for a sugar fix and my post-walk sustenance was a cup of coffee (a habit re-acquired in jail) and a caramel slice.  I ate caramel slices from Beaufort to Ballarat. Became an expert on them.

 Post-walk, a sugar yearning remained.  Green tea ice cream at a Japanese restaurant wasn’t going to satisfy it.

 My Sydney diners had an idea and took me on a walk a few blocks to King Street, Newtown, where I discovered  Gelato Blue. Ice cream heaven.

 I dived on my favourite ice cream in the world: hokey pokey.  That’s because I was born across the ditch and know no better. Although, from the supermarket  you can’t go past  the Connoisseur  version  of  macadamia nuts, caramel and honey.

At Gelato Blue my other scoop, from memory was Argentinean salted caramel.

 The range is mind-boggling. Pistachio, Banana Pancake, American Peanut Butter Brownie.  There’s a pear and salted caramel gelato and a heap of choices for vegans –including an After Dinner Mint Sorbet.

 Since a month in New York pre-Xmas, Natasha has had a craving for peanut butter brownie so that was taken care of  – and cookies with cream.

 This place is for you if you can remember the old ditty: ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice scream, you scream….’  Even if you don’t.


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