Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chanoma Cafe, Sydney

When I was in Sydney, I was on a quest to try different foods from what I'm accustomed.  Sydney is full of Asian influence, and thus most of the places I choose to visit were Thai, or Vietnamese like Ms. G's, or uh, bubble tea.  On a slightly different asian front, I read about Chanoma Cafe,  a Japanese cafe, and self-proclaimed "Japanese Matcha Master".

As you'd expect given that tagline, their main item is obviously matcha, available in just about every form imaginable: regular matcha hot tea, or with steamed milk as a latte or cappucino, or iced as tea, or iced lattes.  Or, more interesting, it can be served as a float with matcha ice cream swirled into it, or even as a float garnished with mochi balls.  Or ... as a blended frappe, with Oreo if you want, topped with whipped cream of course, and mochi balls.  The menu is all pictorial, and there were some fairly crazy looking creations 

Chanoma Cafe also offers an fairly extensive non-matcha drink menu, including black sesame lattes, red bean lattes, and all sorts of floats.  Ojan ordered a yuzu lemonade, which was totally delicious.  It was sweet, flavorful, and really quite tasty.  By far the best thing we had!

The next biggest section of the menu is Japadogs, aka, Japanese style hotdogs, with totally ridiculous toppings, served with fries (wasabi or seaweed coated).  Ojan and another friend went for lunch, and ordered hot dogs before I arrived.  They both really enjoyed the toppings, but said that the hot dogs themselves were really, really low quality and they didn't like them.  And the hot dog buns were somewhat stale and chewy, hard to bite through, and there was too much bun to go with the dog.  Doh, sounds like I didn't miss much.
Storefront.
Chanoma Cafa is located inside the Regent Place dining area, alongside several other casual establishments.  It isn't a food court exactly, as each facility has its own contained doors.

You order at the register, and are given a buzzer to bring back to your table, and then pick the food up inside.  In my case, my buzzer went off literally within a minute, which seemed a bit ridiculous.  Why give me the buzzer in the first place?

The people working seemed fairly traditional Japanese, for example, handing everything over with two hands.
"Outdoor Seating"
There is seating inside, but also "outside" the shop too, basically, in the hallway of the mall.  Each little shop seems to have their own small seating area out here, and patrons were generally respectful of consuming only goods purchased at the proper establishment.

Seating was not very comfortable, just hard stools and wooden tables.  It is here that I found Ojan and our other friend, finishing off their Japadogs.

I joined them after the Japadogs, because I had my sights set on something else: dessert of course, and not just any dessert: soft serve ice cream.  You know I eat a lot of ice cream, but soft serve in particular I adore.  They serve only one flavor, you guessed it, matcha.  Available simply in a cone, or in totally ridiculous creations as parfaits, loaded up with red bean, mochi, fruit, whipped cream, pocky, waffle sticks ... the list goes on and on.
Matcha Anmitsu. $6.50. Plus whipped cream. $0.50.
As I said, I was there for the ice cream.  I decided not to just get a simple soft serve, and was really tempted by the aforementioned crazy parfaits, but I wasn't actually interested in having pocky, waffle sticks, or cornflakes in my sundae.  But I wanted whipped cream, and the other ice cream based choice, anmitsu, did not come with whipped cream.

I was stumped only momentarily, and came up with an easy solution?  Order the ammitsu, but with whipped cream!  Now I could have exactly what I wanted, and the person taking my order didn't bat an eye when I asked to add whip.

There were a slew of components to the creation, that you can't quite see in the photo above, because they are hidden beneath.

On the bottom was cubes of jelly.  They were absolutely flavorless.  A decent texture, and maybe I'd want them in bubble tea, but they made no sense in my ice cream.  Just sweet, sugar and agar, nothing else.  Least interesting component, by far.

On the side was a scoop of sweet red bean paste.  I really like red bean, but didn't like this.  I did like the mushy part, and the sweetness level was just right, not too sweet, just enough to be pleasant.  But then there were whole beans, which is good, except that they seemed almost raw and uncooked.  I like a crunchy element to my desserts, but ... I don't think this was intentional crunch.

The main attraction, the matcha soft serve ice cream, had a strong matcha flavor, clearly made with a serious amount of matcha.  It wasn't very sweet, actually, more bitter than sweet.  But it wasn't creamy at all, and even as it melted it didn't get creamy, and just stayed unpleasantly icy.  For the star ingredient, it was really disappointing.  The flavor was there, but the consistency was just all wrong.

Drizzled over the ice cream was an optional brown sugar syrup, which I opted for.  Since the ice cream was so bitter, it was a pleasant contrast.

On the side was a stick of shiratama, 3 little balls.  The mochi were soft, but not really flavorful.  I could see how these would be nice dunked in a hot matcha though.

And finally, my edition, the whipped cream.  It was sweetened, fluffy, basic whipped cream, but they did provide way too much.  I guess I got my $0.50 worth, but I think I had more whipped cream than any other component, and the balance was all off.  This is my fault for adding it though.

Overall, there were a bunch of ingredients here that I was interested in, but they just didn't execute it well.  I like matcha flavor, but the ice cream was too icy.  I like red bean, but there were too many undercooked beans.  I like mochi, but these were flavorless.  Sadness, as there was a lot of potential.

$7 was pricy for a small dessert.
Chanoma Cafe on Urbanspoon
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