LANTERN BY WAGAYA & ZEN Q, NSW
It's particularly hard to sit in my class on a Friday night sometimes. Especially knowing all too well that a Japanese dinner awaits me after the end of the lecture. Luckily, the teacher was pretty smooth in talking about his subjects that night and time felt to drift by quicker than it seemed.
So, it's a Friday night and George Street is abuzz with people who are no doubt out partying the night to begin yet another weekend. Once I was out of the class session I met up for dinner at Lantern by Wagaya and then had dessert in ZenQ with a friend, Miss Dotty.
A couple of years ago prior to food blogging on TeaThyme I've been a frequent visitor of Wagaya's first restaurant opposite the Entertainment Centre on harbour street. At the time the whole concept of having a computerized touch screen system was a real cool new novelty for myself and to those who are dining. Wagaya and it's sibling restaurant; Lantern by Wagaya still use the touch screen menu concept which depletes the process of having a waitperson come up and take your order off a carbon copy menu. The waitstaff are mostly there as food runners for their meals and various drinks. There's a button for everything - even one that asks for the waitperson to come on over or to see what you've ordered so far.
Miss Dotty and I sat in one of Lantern's wooden booths which overlooked the busy street. We decided to share a salad at first and went for the soft shell crab salad - deep fried pieces of soft shell crab atop a lush green salad that consisted of rocket leaves, cucumber and small cherry tomatoes with dried lotus chips.
For our mains we each had our own dish. Miss Dotty had chosen one of their hot pot varieties - the Tan Tan Nabe which has a stew that simmered on our table over a gas cooker with noodle parcels, mushrooms, tofu and pork as it's main ingredients. The soup was tasty with sesame and a slightly spicy flavour served hot. The tofu was a little off putting as it didn't seem as fresh as the other main ingredients but otherwise it was a nice looking meal.
Upon recommendation from the touch screen menu, I chose the Mentaiko Spaghetti. I clicked it and hoped for the best. When it arrived to our table I sighed with relief - it wasn't anything too bad, just a very creamy cod roe based spaghetti dish with calamari and sliced mushrooms. For something which was out of my ordinary choice in a Japanese restaurant, it was an okay dish but probably I wouldn't have another venture at it again as it seems a little too japanese westernized.
Although we were a tad full on japanese, there is a phrase that comes to mind.. What's that phrase again? Oh, yes. There is always room for dessert!
We meander up towards the George Street outlet that on a Friday night at 11 o'clock is still jam packed with lots of groups of young people hanging out for a quick sweet treat with friends and join a queue in order to grab a table.
It didn't take too long as we had the advantage of being just a table of two instead of others who were in multiples of four to eight. The small shop is divided between ChaTime and ZenQ, both of which are chain stores owned and managed by the same people. ChaTime is a Taiwanese drink menu whilst ZenQ offers the concept of a sweets menu of various glutinous balls with herbal jellies, premium ice-cream flavours and their unique 'Honey Toast' and Shaved Ice is what striked our interests most that evening.
For two people the Honey Toast sets you back at $16 but looks like a marvellous masterpiece on a plate. We order the popular Strawberry Lover flavour to share and watch another pair of two girls a couple of tables down from us nom the toast with ease. It's a massive cube that is half a loaf of toasted bread with chunkier finger-sized pieces inside.
The waitress informs us that because it's busy tonight it'll take 15 minutes to make this piece of food-tastic artwork on a plate. I happily oblige, as we take the time to chit-chat some more and soon enough it arrives - six pieces of strawberries dusted with caster sugar, custard embellishments on the corners and two chocolate wafers that hold the monumental strawberry flavoured ice-cream. There's a small dish of maple-honey syrup for dipping and Miss Dotty and I forego the social "no double dipping rule" this time 'round because it's just too addictive!
And here's the finished product. Yeah, you could go the whole mile and eat the rest of the cube bread but woah, we were full from an epic Wagaya and Zen Q meal.