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Australia: 1st impressions

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Just finishing two weeks in Australia for my first visit. Here are my chowhound impressions of places I enjoyed most:

Sydney:

* Sean's Panorama at Bondi was my favorite. Sort of Chez Panisse meets the beach in a funky seaside location. Homemade bread, butter, pate combined with top ingredients for fun, casual lunch with an excellent and friendly staff. Will go back often.

* Sea Palace in Crow's Nest. Fresh from the tank seafood in Chinese seafood locale. Well off the tourist path.

Melbourne:

* Longrain: Terrific modern Thai in sleek, upscale space in Chinatown. Seafood and fish were particularly elegant. Fun place to see and be seen.

* Becco: Modern Italian around the corner from Longrain. Business lunch crowd with modern Australian versions of Italian cafe food. Excellent.

* Pure South: Tasmanian food (who knew?) in Southgate. Fresh oysters, meat and produce prepared simply. View overlooks the river.

* Vue du Monde: Went to bistro part of this notable restaurant. French comfort food.

Coonawarra:

* Piper's of Penola: In very isolated Coonawarra wine region, loved Pipers. Run by Australian chef and his American wife, clean modern food of freshest ingredients in converted one room school. A welcome 26 seat wonder in an out of the way location.

* Red Fingers: Grill your own stake at this fun, unpretentious local hangout. Great value. Buy a raw steak: they give you the meat, seasonings, potatoes, corn and salad. You do the BBQ'ing at the gas grill and talk to your mates while sipping local wine. Very Australian.

Barossa Valley:

Only area with a true tourism infrastructure for the wine-oriented tourist.

* Appellation: At Peppers The Louise Hotel, modern California cuisine hits the Australian wine country in an upscale, intimate 30 seat restaurant for dinner only. Innovative, delicious, quiet and most welcoming.

* Kaesler Winery: Small cafe at this top producer of Shiraz. Sort of an old west vibration in small cabin. Caesar salad + pasta were tops.

* Krondorf Road Cafe: Slow food with local ingredients in homey, arty country kitchen. Family run. Had my first kangaroo steak -- quite good.

That's it.

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